Hong Kong democracy advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and four others yesterday pleaded guilty of participating in an illegal assembly on June 4 last year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
It was the first time the vigil had been banned in the territory, with police citing, as it did for all demonstrations last year, COVID-19 restrictions on group gatherings. It is expected to face a similar fate this year.
Still, tens of thousands of people lit candles across Hong Kong in what was largely a peaceful event, bar a brief skirmish with riot police in one neighborhood.
Wong, already in prison after he was found guilty of participating and organizing an unauthorized assembly during the mass 2019 pro-democracy protests, pleaded guilty in the District Court.
The other advocates who pleaded guilty were district councilors Lester Shum (岑敖暉), Jannelle Leung (梁凱晴) and Tiffany Yuen (袁嘉蔚). Another advocate, Eddie Chu (朱凱迪), asked for an adjournment and his case is to be heard on June 11, with 19 others facing similar charges.
Unlawful assembly charges can carry up to five years in prison.
Shum and Yuen were already in custody on national security charges, which Wong also faces.
Leung was remanded into custody after her plea and the four are to be sentenced on Thursday next week.
Other defendants — who include some of the territory’s most prominent democracy advocates, many of them also jailed or in detention — are to be tried later this summer.
The June 4 anniversary struck an especially sensitive nerve in the territory last year, falling just as Beijing prepared to introduce Hong Kong’s National Security Law, which punishes anything China sees as subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
This year, the June 4 event is particularly awkward for Beijing, which celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam (林鄭月娥), asked whether commemorating the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre would contravene the new law, said this week that it was important to show respect to the party.
Additional reporting by AFP
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