Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong is sentenced to a further 10 months in prison for participating in an unauthorized rally on June 4 last year to commemorate the 1989 crackdown on protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
It was the first time the vigil had been banned at the global financial center, with police citing coronavirus restrictions on group gatherings, such as last year for all demonstrations. It is expected to suffer a similar fate this year.
Still, tens of thousands of people lit candles in the city during what was largely a peaceful event in June, apart from a brief skirmish with riot police in one neighborhood.
Commemorations of the Tiananmen crackdown have been banned in mainland China, but Hong Kong traditionally held the largest vigil worldwide every year, having been promised certain freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including the right to speech and expression. meeting.
Wong, 24, who was already in prison for other unlawful convictions for meetings and among 47 activists charged under the city’s sweeping national security law, was sentenced in court on Thursday.
A sentence of 15 months was reduced to 10 for his guilty plea.
Judge Stanley Chan also sentenced Lester Shum, Jannelle Leung and Tiffany Yuen to four to six months. Twenty others dealing with similar allegations from Tiananmen Square on June 4 will appear in court on June 11.
“Freedom of assembly is not unlimited,” said Chan.
The anniversary hit a particularly sensitive nerve in the former British colony last year, falling just as Beijing was preparing to pass new security legislation that will punish anything China sees as subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with life imprisonment.
This year’s anniversary event in Tiananmen Square on June 4 is particularly troubling for Beijing, which is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party.
When asked whether commemorating the Tiananmen victims would violate the new security law, Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam said last month that it was important to show respect to the party.
China never gave a complete account of the violence in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The death toll of officials was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people have died.
Wong was sentenced to 13-1 / 2 months in December for an unlawful anti-government rally on June 21, 2019 and an additional four months in prison for participating in an unauthorized protest in October 2019, while also breaking a government law against wearing faces. masks.
While in prison, Wong was arrested in January on suspicion of violating the new security law, enacted in July 2020, by taking part in an unofficial vote to select opposition candidates for a now-postponed election, which authorities describe it as a ‘cruel conspiracy’. To overthrow the government.