Dozen Hong Kong Activists Plead Guilty Over 2020 Tiananmen Vigil
(Bloomberg) -- A dozen Hong Kong activists, including a former chief executive candidate and the former head of the city’s biggest protest group, have pleaded guilty to charges related to a vigil last year to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Albert Ho, a former Democratic Party leader who sought the city’s top office in 2012, and Figo Chan, ex-convener of the Civil Human Rights Front, were among seven defendants who pleaded guilty in District Court on Thursday to taking part in the banned protest and inciting others to do so. Another five, including former lawmakers Leung “Long Hair” Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Yeung Sum, pleaded guilty to a single charge of taking part in the June 4, 2020, gathering.
“Freedom will blossom,” Chan said during the hearing. “Democracy will triumph and return.”
Thousands of activists defied a police ban to go ahead with the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, which drew tens of thousands of people annually, including a record 180,000 on the Tiananmen crackdown’s 30th anniversary in 2019. Although government officials blame the ban on the need to prevent coronavirus outbreaks, democracy advocates have accused them of using the pandemic to curb freedoms guaranteed to the former British colony before its 1997 return to Chinese rule.
In a statement read out in court on Thursday, Ho described how Hong Kong residents have marked the Tiananmen vigil for roughly three decades and that the defendants were “driven by our consciences and moral commitment to make our best endeavors to maintain this historic tradition” of holding the event.
“I am not asking for leniency for the purpose of mitigation, but I do hope and expect that the length of the sentence should be just and fair and proportionate, in the light of the historical background stated above and in light of the fact that the June 4th event was peaceful and orderly,” Ho said.
Government prosecutions have swept up scores of Hong Kong’s most prominent activists in the wake of historic street protests in 2019. Some defendants in Thursday’s case, such as Ho and Chan, are already serving jail time for their roles in separate protests and faced pressure to plead guilty to keep their prison terms from getting even longer.
Four others defendants, including former student activist, Joshua Wong, were sentenced to jail in May for participating in the protest. Eight more, including jailed media tycoon Jimmy Lai and vigil organizer Chow Hang Tung, have pleaded not guilty and will face trial in November.
The pleas on Thursday came the same day the city’s national security police searched a museum dedicated to the events of June 4, according to the South China Morning Post newspaper, which cited a police source it didn’t identify. On Wednesday, Chow and three other members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which runs the museum, were arrested for failing to comply with the city’s national security law.
The Liaison Office, China’s top agency in Hong Kong, praised the arrests and said they reflected the “fairness and justice of the law.”
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