Chow Hang-tung, a vocal pro-democracy activist in Hong Kong, was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Tuesday for inciting an unauthorized assembly to commemorate the victims who died in China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square.
Chow once led the now defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China (The Alliance) and was arrested a day before the June 4 anniversary last year.
Hong Kong authorities have banned the annual Tiananmen vigil for the last two years, citing COVID-19 concerns; however, “many activists saw the bans as an attempt to shut down displays of defiance to Beijing,” Reuters reported.
Chow’s charges are directly related to a social media post she published titled, “Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one’s ground” and an article published in her Ming Pao newspaper titled “Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth.”
Magistrate Amy Chan, who presided over Chow’s proceedings said the post and article were intended to “to encourage, persuade, make suggestions to and put pressure on members of the public,” and “amounted to inciting others to knowingly take part in an unauthorized assembly,” adding that the assembly caused “a public health risk.”
Chow, 36, a barrister, represented herself in court and had pleaded not guilty saying she wanted to “incite others not to forget June 4,” not to encourage a gathering, adding that she found the court’s argument “simply unbelievable,” Reuters reported.