09/15/2021, 14.08
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Tiananmen vigil: 12 politicians and democracy activists sentenced

For the past two years, authorities have banned events commemorating the 4 June 1989 massacre. Sentences of between six and 10 months were imposed. Some defendants are already in prison for other sentences. The executive continues to target Apple Daily and the local journalists association.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The District Court today sentenced 12 politicians and pro-democracy activists to up to 10 months in prison. They were charged with taking part or inciting others to take part in last year's June 4 vigil for the Tiananmen massacre. The authorities had banned the traditional democracy rally on the grounds that it went against health rules to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The judges handed down the heaviest sentences to Albert Ho, Figo Chan and Andrew Wan. Steven Kwok and Chiu Yan-loi will serve eight months in prison; six months for Cyd Ho, Yeung Sum, "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung and Chu Hoi-dick. Leung Kwok-wah, Cheung Man-kwong and Mak Hoi-wah were given suspended sentences.

All had pleaded guilty; some of those convicted are already in prison for participating in the 2019 anti-government demonstrations. For the same events on 4 June, the District Court had convicted well-known democracy activist Joshua Wong and district councillors Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Jannelle Leung in May.

According to Judge Amanda Woodcock, the defendants "mistakenly and arrogantly" believed that their cause was more important than the public duty to protect public health. Woodcock ruled that the organisers had other options to mark the event, such as holding an "online vigil". The defence had stressed that the vigil had been held in accordance with the rules on social distancing and that no contagion had spread from it.

The trial of the remaining eight defendants will open on 1 November. They include Catholic publishing magnate Jimmy Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan, former president of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democrats, the group that organises the annual vigil in memory of the Tiananmen massacre.

In a further clampdown on advocates for democracy, Security Secretary Chris Tang today ordered the seizure of the Apple Daily printing press. Accused of threatening national security, Jimmy Lai's independent newspaper closed down on 24 June after a series of arrests and the freezing of assets worth HK million (about €2 million). In addition to Lai, six managers and journalists of the now defunct democracy paper are currently in prison.

Tang justified the new operation against Apple Daily on the grounds that the newspaper's printing plant was linked to crimes against national security. He also targeted the Hong Kong Journalists Association (Hkja), accusing it of being 'biased' (against pro-Beijing authorities) and of having 'infiltrated schools to spread political messages'. Tang asked the association to disclose information about its members and funding sources. The Hkja rejected the allegations and suggested that with its demands the city's security czar is encouraging an organisation to violate Hong Kong's Privacy Ordinance.

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