For Lee Cheuk-yan, the Tiananmen vigil is a ‘struggle of memory against forgetting’
The pro-democracy activist defends in court the annual march in remembrance of the massacre of 4 June 1989. Police banned it in the past two years because of COVID-19. For Lee, the people of Hong Kong don't need to be encouraged to participate; the real provocateur is the regime, which “fired at its own people”.
The pro-democracy activist and former member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council cited Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera in his mitigation plea to Judge Amanda Woodcock.
Earlier this month, Lee pleaded guilty to organising, taking part in and urging others to participate in last year’s traditional march commemorating the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
Hong Kong police had banned the event claiming that it was enforcing COVID-19 restrictions.
Lee is the former president of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organised the vigil.
The pro-democracy group recently disbanded under government pressure. Several of its members are in jail on various charges while others could be jailed under the draconian security law imposed by Beijing last year.
Like Lee, other Alliance leaders – Simon Leung, Richard Tsoi, Wu Chi-wai and Leung Yiu-chung – filed for mitigation as well.
As reported by the Hong Kong Free Press, when the defendants entered the courtroom, they received the encouragement of members of the public in the gallery.
Lee, who responded to the encouragement by raising his fist, was an eyewitness to the events in Tiananmen, when on 4 June 1989, Chinese authorities killed thousands of students demanding freedom and democracy.
In his speech, Lee thanked the people of Hong Kong “who kept the promise of 1989”.
“Your honour, the people of Hong Kong who took part needed no person or organisation to incite them,” he said in his address to Judge Woodcock. “If there was a provocateur, it is the regime that fired at its own people.”
“If I must go to jail to affirm my will, then so be it,” Lee added, sparking a round of applause from the gallery.
Along with dozens of pro-democracy leaders, such as Catholic media magnate Jimmy Lai, Lee is also on trial for allegedly breaching security legislation.