Two dozen Hong Kong activists in court over banned Tiananmen vigil

Two dozen Hong Kong activists in court over banned Tiananmen vigil

Thousands of Hong Kongers took part in a ceremony to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown
Thousands of Hong Kongers took part in a ceremony to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident despite it being banned by authorities AFP/ISAAC LAWRENCE

HONG KONG: Hong Kong activists shouted anti-government slogans outside court on Tuesday (Sep 15) as more than two dozen high profile campaigners appeared over a banned vigil to mark the Tiananmen Square incident.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kongers defied a ban on rallies on Jun 4 to mark the anniversary of Beijing's deadly suppression of students pushing for democracy.

The annual vigil has been held in Hong Kong for the last three decades and usually attracts huge crowds, but this year's gathering was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures - even though local transmission had largely been halted.

The group of defendants represents a broad section of the movement, from 72-year-old media mogul Jimmy Lai to younger campaigners such as Joshua Wong.

READ: Hong Kong activists charged for taking part in Tiananmen vigil

The 26 accused are charged with either participating in or inciting others to take part in an unlawful assembly. The incitement charge carries up to five years in jail.

Activists gathered at West Kowloon Magistrates' Courts ahead of the procedural hearing to shout slogans and display banners defending their right to hold a Tiananmen vigil.

"It's not a crime to mourn Jun 4," one poster read, while another said: "Oppose political prosecutions, Protest political suppression."

Veteran activist Lee Cheuk-yan, 63, told the crowd over a loudspeaker: "We must reiterate that mourning Jun 4 is not a crime."

The vigil, traditionally held in Victoria Park, has taken on particular significance in recent years as the semi-autonomous city chafes under Beijing's increasingly authoritarian rule.

Lee added: "Suppression suffered by activists on Jun 4, 1989, is very similar to what Hong Kong people suffered in the past year."

READ: Thousands in Hong Kong defy ban on Tiananmen vigil​​​​​​​

Some of those charged face separate prosecutions related to last year's huge and often violent pro-democracy protests.

China's leaders have rejected calls to give Hong Kongers universal suffrage, and portrayed the protests as a plot by foreigners to destabilise the motherland.

In late June, Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law aimed at stamping out the demonstrations once and for all.

The legislation targets subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion, with sentences including life in prison.

But its broad phrasing - such as a ban on encouraging hatred towards China's government - has sent fear rippling through a city used to being able to speak its mind.

Source: AFP/nh

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