Hong Kong’s top court will hear an appeal by the government against an earlier ruling that overturned the conviction of former Tiananmen vigil activist Chow Hang-tung over an unauthorised commemoration.

The Court of Final Appeal approved an application from the Department of Justice to appeal against Chow’s acquittal, saying it agreed with the department that the point of law concerned was “of great and general importance.” The appeal will be heard on November 22.

Chow Hang-tung CSD Tiananmen vigils Court of Final Appeal
Chow Hang-tung, former leader of the group that organised Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigils, was escorted to Court of Final Appeal on June 8, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

Chow, former vice-chairperson of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, last December won an appeal against her conviction and 15-month jail sentence, handed down in January 2022, for inciting others to take part in an unauthorised vigil in 2021 under Covid restrictions.

The Alliance had for decades organised a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 to remember victims of the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. But the government banned the vigil in 2020 and 2021, citing Covid restrictions on public gatherings.

The High Court in December ruled that public meetings should not be banned if conditions could be imposed, saying that police had not taken measures to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

The court will decide in the appeal hearing whether a defendant accused of inciting others to take part in a banned public assembly is allowed to challenge the legality of the government ban in court, and how the court would determine whether such a challenge is valid.

Chow was escorted to the top court at around 9 a.m. on Thursday in a prison van. An inflatable tunnel was installed to prevent her from being seen, but she managed to smile at reporters through the gap between the Correctional Services Department van and the tunnel, even as CSD officers tried to obscure her face with black briefcases.

Court of Final Appeal
Court of Final Appeal. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

Wearing a green jacket with her hair in a ponytail, Chow entered the dock at around 10 a.m., smiling and waving at members of the public gallery who waved back.

Judges Roberto Ribeiro, Johnson Lam, and Patrick Chan heard Thursday’s case, while Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions William Tam represented the justice department with Senior Counsel Robert Pang representing Chow.

As she left the dock, Chow made a “V” sign and said: “Thank you all for remembering,” before leaving the courthouse through the same inflatable tunnel.

Thursday’s decision came just days after the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Twenty-three people were taken away for investigation on Sunday amid a massive police deployment of 5,000 officers around Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

tiananmen massacre hong kong
Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

Chow, who has been in custody since September 2021, will remain remanded over two national security cases involving the Alliance.

The defunct Alliance, and its former leaders Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho, and Chow, are accused of inciting subversion under the Beijing-imposed national security law. Their case has been moved to the Court of First Instance where the maximum penalty for incitement to subversion is 10 years’ imprisonment.

Chow, along with two other former standing committee members of the Alliance, was also convicted of refusing to comply with a national security police demand for information. The trio filed an appeal against their conviction and sentence of four and a half months in jail.

The Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989 ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Success! You're on the list.

James is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press with an interest in culture and social issues. He has a bachelor’s degree in English at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, with a minor in Journalism. He was previously a reporter at The Standard.