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Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai, two other activists convicted over Tiananmen vigil

Hong Kong tycoon being escorted by police
Hong Kong tycoon and democracy advocate Jimmy Lai leaves a courthouse.
(Kin Cheung / Associated Press)

Hong Kong tycoon and prominent pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai and two others were convicted Thursday for their roles in last year’s banned Tiananmen candlelight vigil, amid a Beijing-ordered crackdown on dissent in the city.

Lai, Chow Hang-tung and activist and former reporter Gwyneth Ho were convicted of either taking part in or inciting others to join the candlelight vigil in 2020. Chow is a vice chairperson of the now-defunct group that organized the annual event, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

They are among 24 activists who were charged over their roles in the vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 last year, during which thousands of people gathered to light candles and sing songs in the park despite police warnings that they could be breaking the law with an unauthorized assembly. The event marked the anniversary of the 1989 massacre of protesters campaigning for more democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

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Authorities had banned the protest for the first time last year in three decades, citing public health risks from the coronavirus. The vigil was also banned this year.

Prior to the ban, massive crowds attended the yearly event — the only large-scale public commemoration on Chinese soil of the 1989 crackdown in Beijing.

Lai was found guilty of inciting others to take part, while Ho was convicted of knowingly participating in the assembly. Chow, a lawyer, was convicted of both inciting and participating in the vigil.

Hundreds of people gather in Hong Kong despite a ban on an annual vigil remembering China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.

The trio had pleaded not guilty to the charges. Court proceedings will resume Monday, when they can enter mitigation pleas before sentences are handed down.

“The Hong Kong government has once again flouted international law by convicting activists simply for their involvement in a peaceful, socially distanced vigil for those killed by Chinese troops on 4 June 1989,” Kyle Ward, Amnesty International’s deputy secretary general, said in a statement.

“These convictions merely underline the pattern of the Hong Kong authorities’ extreme efforts to exploit the law to press multiple trumped-up charges against prominent activists,” Ward said.

He added that prosecuting people who mourn and remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown is an “egregious attack on the rights to freedom of expression and assembly.”

Most of the activists who were charged over the banned vigil have pleaded guilty, including prominent activist Joshua Wong, who was given 10 months in jail for his participation in the vigil. He was already in jail after previously being found guilty of other charges related to his activism.


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