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Hong Kong activist bags 15-mths jail term for inciting unauthorized gathering

By Esther Kalu

A 36-year-old activist and barrister, Chow Hang-tung, has bagged 15 months in prison as sentenced by a Hong Kong court for inciting an unauthorised gathering which violated Covid-19 safety measures to commemorate those who died in China’s 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The Activist, who is of the since-closed Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, was said to have been arrested the day before the June 4 anniversary of the crackdown last year.

While delivering her judgement on Tuesday, the Magistrate, Amy Chan, in the West Kowloon Magistrates’ Court stated that she found that the posts and articles by the activist was meant to encourage, persuade, make suggestions to and put pressure on members of the public, saying “it amounted to inciting others to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly.”

According to the Magistrate, Chow’s charge related to social media posts titled “Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one’s ground,” and her Ming Pao newspaper article titled “Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth, adding that they spurred the assembly which caused “a public health risk.”

Chow, who represented herself at the court, was said to have pleaded not guilty, saying she wanted to “incite others not to forget June 4,” not to encourage a gathering.

Chan stated that she found the argument “simply unbelievable,” adding that Chow’s academic qualifications would have allowed her to be more clear in her writing.

“It can be foreseen that the public space to discuss June 4 will disappear entirely. Tyranny is greedy, red lines will keep expanding.” she said.

As gathered, before her arrest, the Police had banned Hong Kong’sannual Tiananmen vigils for the last two years, due to coronavirus restrictions and measures to protect people.

However, after many years of mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, many activists saw the bans as an attempt to shut down displays of defiance to Beijing. Authorities denied that was the reason.

Despite the ban, thousands lit candles across the city in 2020, and smaller crowds did the same in 2021.

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