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Hong Kong Court Convicts Activists Behind Tiananmen Vigil

HONG KONG—Three Hong Kong activists from a now-defunct group that organized annual vigils commemorating the Chinese communist regime’s 1989 massacre of pro-democracy protesters were convicted on Saturday for failing to provide authorities with information on the group in accordance with a national security law.

Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan, and Tsui Hon-kwong were arrested in 2021 during a clampdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement following massive protests more than three years ago. They were leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China before it disbanded under the shadow of the Beijing-imposed law.

The alliance was best known for organizing candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the Chinese military’s crushing of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests. Critics say its shutdown has shown freedoms that were promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 are eroding.

During the trial that only kicked off late last year more than a year after the defendants were arrested, the Alliance was accused by government prosecutor Ivan Cheung of being a “foreign agent” for an unnamed group, after allegedly receiving HK$20,000 ($2,547) from it.

Chow, however, denied this in court, saying the Alliance was an independent civil society group run by Hongkongers, and that the case against her and the others amounted to “political persecution.”

“The existence of an independent organization like us that can check power, is essential to the security of a nation, not a threat,” she told the court.

Under the security law’s implementation rules, the police chief can request a range of information from a foreign agent. Failure to comply with the request could result in six months in jail and a fine of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,740) if convicted.

On Saturday, principal magistrate Peter Law ruled the defendants were obliged to answer the notice served to them and their non-compliance was unjustified.

The alliance had been actively operating with various entities and people abroad, Law said, so it was necessary to explore their dealings and connections to determine their affiliation and ultimate purpose.

During previous legal proceedings, the court ordered a partial redaction of some information after prosecutors argued that a full disclosure of information would jeopardize an ongoing probe into national security cases.

The undisclosed details in a redacted police report submitted to the court include the names of groups that were alleged to have links with the alliance.

The annual vigil organized by the alliance was the only large-scale public commemoration of the June 4th massacre on Chinese soil and was attended by massive crowds until authorities banned it in 2020, citing anti-pandemic measures.

Chow, along with two other former alliance leaders, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, were charged with inciting subversion of state power under the security law in 2021. The alliance itself was charged with subversion.

The national security law, which punishes acts including subversion and collusion with foreign forces has been criticized by some Western governments as a tool to crush dissent.

Apart from the activists, pro-democracy publisher Jimmy Lai is also facing collusion charges under the law, which has already jailed or silenced many dissidents.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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