Nine Hong Kong democracy advocates and former lawmakers yesterday were sentenced to prison terms of up to 10 months for their roles in last year’s banned candlelight vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre.
The nine are part of a group of 12 defendants who earlier this month pled guilty to participating in the vigil that was the only large-scale public commemoration on Chinese soil of the 1989 crackdown in Beijing on student-led protests.
Three others were given suspended sentences.
They were all charged with taking part in an unauthorized assembly, with seven of them facing an additional charge for inciting others to take part in the event.
Police last year banned the annual vigil for the first time in three decades, citing public health risks from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Critics have said that the ban is part of the crackdown on opposition in the territory following months of democracy demonstrations in 2019.
More than 10 democracy advocates turned up at the June 4 vigil, despite the ban and thousands followed suit. The crowds broke through barriers set up around the Victoria Park venue to light candles and sing songs, despite police warnings.
Police later arrested more than 20 who participated, including leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the group that organizes the yearly vigil.
Some of those sentenced yesterday, such as former lawmaker Albert Ho (何俊仁) and Figo Chan (陳皓桓), former leader of the defunct Civil Human Rights Front, are in prison over other unauthorized assemblies.
Eight other democracy advocates who were charged over last year’s Tiananmen vigil — including Jimmy Lai (黎智英), founder of the defunct Apple Daily newspaper, as well as former lawmaker and Hong Kong Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan (李卓人) — have pleaded not guilty and are to stand trial in November.
Democracy advocate Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) and three others had previously pleaded guilty for their roles in the event, and were sentenced to between four and 10 months in jail.
In June last year, Beijing imposed a National Security Law on Hong Kong that targets secession, subversion, terrorism and foreign collusion in the territory’s affairs. More than 100 people have been arrested under the legislation.
Beijing and Hong Kong officials have been criticized for rolling back freedoms promised to Hong Kong for 50 years when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.
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