Hong Kong activists appear in court over Tiananmen vigil
July 13, 2020
Pro-democracy activists have appeared in Hong Kong court over a vigil to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. The authorities previously banned the gathering, citing the coronavirus as a reason.
A group of thirteen Hong Kong activists appeared in court on Monday to face charges of inciting others to attend an unlawful assembly.
An annual vigil to remember the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre has been held in Hong Kong's Victoria Park for the past three decades.
The event usually attracts huge crowds, but this year's gathering was banned for the first time with authorities citing coronavirus measures as the reason. At the time, the transmission of the virus was believed to have largely been halted.
Despite the ban, thousands turned out to hold candles for the June 4 vigil, both in their neighborhoods and in the park. The activists are facing the charges over the event amid concerns linked with the new national security law imposed by Beijing.
Tiananmen massacre the 'real incitement'
The group charged with inciting others to flout the ban includes Lee Cheuk-Yan, who chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements of China. The alliance has organized vigils on an annual basis to remember the bloody 1989 crackdown on students pushing for democratic reforms. Estimates of the death toll resulting from the Tiananmen Square crackdown vary from an official government figure of 241 into the thousands.
"Today we are supposedly on trial, but we believe it is the Hong Kong government, the police that should be put on trial and will be put on trial because of the suppression of our right to mourn on June 4,'' said Lee.
"This is political persecution," he told the court. "The real incitement is the massacre conducted by the Chinese Communist Party 31 years ago."
New law raises fears beyond Hong Kong
Some of those charged on Monday face separate prosecutions related to last year's huge and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests.
Also among the defendants is Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, and the activists and prominent alliance members Richard Tsoi and Albert Ho.