Four Hong Kong activists, including Wong Chi-fung, pleaded guilty Friday (April 30) to taking part in an “illegal assembly” on June 4, 2020, to pay tribute to the victims of the Tiananmen Square incident.
The activists, Wong Chi-fung, Sham Ao-fai, Yuen Ka-wai and Leung Kai-ching, each pleaded guilty to one count of “knowingly participating in an unauthorized assembly” at the Hong Kong District Court.
The judge ordered that the four be taken into custody pending sentencing on May 6. The maximum penalty for participating in an unauthorized assembly is five years in prison.
Wong Chi-fung was charged with incitement and organizing an unauthorized assembly for his participation in the June 21 siege of police headquarters in 2019, and he was sentenced to 13 and a half months in prison in December 2020.
The other defendant in the June 4 rally case, Cadence Chu, is still considering her intention to plead, and the judge adjourned the case to June 11 to be heard with the rest of the defendants in the case.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China has held annual June 4 memorial candlelight vigils in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park since 1989, but in 2020, Hong Kong police invoked the Emergency Decree on Party Restrictions used to prevent and control the new crown epidemic and issued a ban on June 4 candlelight vigils.
Despite this, a large number of Hong Kong people still spontaneously went to Victoria Park and other places to pay tribute on June 4 last year. More than 20 activists, including Wong Chi-fung and Sham Ao-fai, were also prosecuted as a result.
The New York Times quoted Sham as saying that the police charges against the 24 of them showed that the authorities could not even tolerate a completely peaceful assembly and that the charges were an attempt to harass and intimidate them. Sham also argued that this is what Beijing wants, and that it wants to restrict the freedom of movement of Hong Kong activists in order to (prevent them from) talking to the international community about the situation in Hong Kong.
Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported Tuesday that the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HKASPDMC) is continuing to apply for the Victoria Park venue this year and has applied to the police for a “notice of no objection” for the march and candlelight rally.
According to the report, the Hong Kong Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) responded that it had received applications from the Alliance for booking the Victoria Park venue, but due to the impact of the new epidemic, the department “has suspended the processing of applications for booking free recreational and sports venues under its jurisdiction for non-specified activities” until further notice, and the department has also informed the Alliance about the suspension of arrangements for processing booking applications.
Hong Kong has seen a massive outbreak of pro-democracy protests in 2019, with protesters putting forward “five demands” to the authorities, including the withdrawal of amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance and the immediate implementation of dual universal suffrage for the Legislative Council and the Chief Executive. The protests were suppressed by the Hong Kong authorities.
Since then, Beijing enacted the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law in June 2020, which prohibits any act of subversion or secession. Since the implementation of the Hong Kong version of the National Security Law, China has continued to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, forcing an increasing number of activists and politicians to leave the city and go into exile overseas.
Hong Kong’s Legislative Council also passed the Immigration (Amendment) Bill 2020 on Wednesday, and activists fear the bill will give authorities the power to prevent Hong Kong residents and others from entering and leaving the city freely.