Hong Kong top court reinstates Tiananmen activist’s conviction

Hong Kong top court reinstates Tiananmen activist’s conviction
Hong Kong top court reinstates Tiananmen activist’s conviction

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Police patrol at Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 2, 2023, the venue where Hong Kong people traditionally gathered annually to mourn the victims of China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. — AFP pic

HONG KONG, Jan 25 — Hong Kong’s apex court today reinstated a prominent activist’s conviction for inciting the public to join an unauthorised assembly three years ago when police banned the commemoration of Beijing’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Activist Chow Hang-tung is a former leader of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance, which had organised an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong to mourn the victims of June 4, 1989, when Beijing sent troops into Tiananmen Square to quash appeals for democracy.

For three decades, the vigil would bring together hundreds of thousands of people — a symbol of Hong Kong’s uniqueness from the mainland where all mention of the incident is censored. But it has been banned by authorities after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the financial hub in 2020 to quell dissent.

In early 2022, Chow was sentenced to 15 months in jail by a low-level judge who found her guilty of “inciting others to join an authorised assembly”, because she had published two articles in a newspaper after the vigil was cancelled under a police ban.

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In her articles, Chow said she would enter the vigil venue with a candle, and she hoped to see others.

Chow successfully had the conviction overturned in late 2022 in the city’s High Court, where a senior judge said the police failed to exercise their responsibility to facilitate the assembly before enforcing a ban.

The prosecution then brought the case to the Court of Final Appeal, arguing that Chow could not challenge the police ban in her criminal trial.

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On Thursday, five top judges, including Anthony Gleeson from Australia — an overseas non-permanent judge — ruled in favour of the prosecution and restored Chow’s conviction.

Hong Kong’s Chief Justice Andrew Cheung said that “the authority of a prohibition would be weakened if a defendant could re-open the question of the prohibition’s validity in criminal proceedings”.

Four other judges, including three saying that the police ban was open for legal challenge, said Chow’s legal attack was unsuccessful as the police chief was not required “to take the initiative to devise and propose conditions” for an assembly.

Her remaining four-and-a-half-month prison term would be readmitted to the High Court for handling.

Chow just spent her 39th birthday in jail on Wednesday — her third one since she was denied bail in September 2021 when the Alliance and its three leaders were charged with “inciting subversion”, an offence carrying up to 10 years in jail under the national security law.

She was previously jailed for joining the banned vigil on June 4, 2020, and refusing to submit the Alliance’s information to the security police. — AFP

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