Hong Kong court sentences Tiananmen vigil organizer to 15 months in prison

A Hong Kong court on Tuesday sentenced an activist to 15 months in prison for reportedly organizing an unauthorized vigil to commemorate those who lost their lives during a pro-democracy protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

Chow Hang-tung, 36, who was a member of the now-closed Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, was arrested last year just one day before the anniversary of the protest, according to Reuters.

Hong Kong typically holds annual vigils, but for the past two years police have banned the gatherings due to coronavirus restrictions, the news outlet noted.

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Though law enforcement officials in China have denied it, activists have attributed the bans to attempts to silence displays of defiance, Reuters reported.

In 2020, thousands of people reportedly lit candles to commemorate Tiananmen Square, and smaller groups did the same in 2021, pushing back against the ban.

Chow was reportedly charged for making posts to social media that read "Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one's ground," and authoring a newspaper article titled "Candlelight carries the weight of conscience and the Hong Kong people persevere in telling the truth."

Magistrate Amy Chan accused Chow of using the article and posts "to encourage, persuade, make suggestions to and put pressure on members of the public," and "amounted to inciting others to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly."

Chow pleaded not guilty.

Chan said that she found that her argument that she desired to "incite others not to forget June 4" and not to encourage gathering was "simply unbelievable," Reuters reported.

Chow was sentenced to 12 months in prison for her participation in a 2020 vigil and five months of her Tuesday sentence will run concurrently with it, the news outlet noted.

"It can be foreseen that the public space to discuss June 4 will disappear entirely," Chow told the court through tears following her verdict. "Tyranny is greedy, red lines will keep expanding."