A prominent Hong Kong activist has been convicted by court and jailed for fifteen months for organising an 'illegal assembly' to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 2021 in defiance of prevailing Covid-19 restrictions in the city. 36 year-old Chow Hang-tung was also a member of the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.
Chow has represented herself in court, arguing that the purpose of her actions was to commemorate the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, not to incite a gathering. She was arrested shortly before June 4. Magistrate Amy Chan in the West Kowloon Magistrates' Court said the assembly caused "a public health risk."
Chow had already been sentenced to 12 months in prison for inciting and taking part in a similar vigil in 2020. But five months of her fresh sentence will run concurrently with this, meaning she will spend a total of 22 months behind bars.
The activist used part of her court appearance to read out testimonies from those who had lost their family members in the massacre that took place in 1989, warning the court that "red lines would keep expanding" and public space to discuss Tiananmen would disappear entirely in Hong Kong.
Sixteen other activists are already serving sentences of 4-10 months related to the 2020 vigil. Two democracy campaigners facing similar charges, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung, have fled Hong Kong.
A crackdown on pro-democracy forces in Hong Kong has shut down many activists like Chow, including pro-democracy news outlet The Stand. Chow also faces charges of inciting subversion under a sweeping security law imposed by Beijing in 2020. The Alliance dissolved amid that investigation, with police accusing it of being an "agent of foreign forces," which the group had denied.
The banning of vigils related to June 4 began in 2020, when coronavirus restrictions were established although pro-democracy groups alleged it was pressure from Beijing that lead to the outlawing of gatherings for the commemoration.