Joshua Wong and three other pro-democracy Hong Kong activists have been jailed for 10 more months by a Hong Kong court for taking part in an unauthorised assembly last year to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Commemorations of the 4 June event are banned in mainland China, but Hong Kong has been holding annual vigils as the former British colony was promised certain freedoms, including rights of expression and assembly, when it was returned to China in 1997.
But the vigil was banned for the first time in 2020, with the police citing Covid-19 related restrictions on group gatherings, and this year it is expected to face a similar fate.
Mr Wong, 24, is already in prison after being given a 13-and-a-half month sentence in December 2020 over an unlawful anti-government rally held in June 2019, and an additional four-month sentence for participating in an unauthorised protest in October 2019.
The activist was originally expected to get a 15-month sentence but this was reduced after he pleaded guilty.
Nathan Law, a pro-democracy Hong Kong activist living in exile in the UK, said: “Hong Kong courts are compromised.”
“It’s unimaginable that the democratic campaigners who merely exercised their rights to protest and assembly peacefully would be sentenced to jail for up to a year. Hong Kong had been the only place to commemorate the fallen in the 4 June Tiananmen Square Massacre for more than 30 years.”
Mr Law said that the sentencing itself expresses a message that “even the court is convinced that Hong Kong people do not have the natural rights to continue the Vigil Night, and deterring sentencing is needed to punish the activists who lighted a candle that night.”
Besides Mr Wong, the district court Judge Stanley Chan sentenced three district councillors, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Jannelle Leung, to prison. Mr Shum was sentenced for six months while the other two were sentenced for four months each.
Twenty others facing similar charges related to assembly on 4 June Tiananmen Square anniversary are scheduled to appear in the court on 11 June.
Beijing is all set to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party this year and an event related to the Tiananmen Square anniversary could be embarrassing.
Last month, Hong Kong’s leader, Carrie Lam, gave an indication of what is in store when she said that it was important to show respect to the Communist Party.
Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 on the promise that its relative autonomy would be maintained but that has not been the case.
Over the past few years, Beijing has taken a series of actions, including introducing a strict national security law whose emphasis is on ensuring the loyalty of Hong Kong’s government, leaders and citizens to China.
It has led to most of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy leaders and activists either being arrested and imprisoned or fleeing into exile. Last month, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media tycoon Jimmy Lai was found guilty of unauthorised assembly and sentenced to 14 months in prison.
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