Associated Press | The Guardian
Mon 1 Nov 2021, 02.29 EDT
Eight pro-democracy activists including the prominent businessman had been charged under national security laws
Democracy advocate Jimmy Lai Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP
The trial of eight pro-democracy activists, including Apple Daily newspaper founder Jimmy Lai, who were charged over their roles in an unauthorised Tiananmen vigil last year began on Monday.
Lai and the seven others, including Lee Cheuk-yan, the former chairman of the now defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, face charges of organising, participating and inciting others to take part in the unauthorised candlelight vigil commemorating the bloody 1989 crackdown on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
The trial for eight pro-democracy activists, including Lee Cheuk-Yan (centre) began on Monday. They are charged with inciting others to take part in last year’s unauthorised Tiananmen vigil, amid a crackdown on political dissent in Hong Kong. Photograph: Kin Cheung/AP
On Monday five of the group, including Lee, pleaded guilty, according to the South China Morning Post. Lai, activist Gwyneth Ho, and former alliance vice-chair, Chow Hang-tun, pleaded not guilty.
Chow told the court she understood “every word being uttered” in the reading of the charges against her, “but I do not understand why it constitutes an offence”. “That is why I plead not guilty,” she said.
The eight previously pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to last 10 days.
Police last year banned the annual vigil for the first time in three decades, citing public health risks from the coronavirus pandemic. Critics believe the ban is part of the crackdown on opposition in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory after months of anti-government protests in 2019.
More than a dozen activists turned up at the 4 June vigil in 2020 despite the ban, and thousands followed suit, breaking through barriers in spite of police warnings. They set up around Victoria Park to light candles and sing songs.
Police later arrested and charged 26 activists over the vigil, including members of the Hong Kong Alliance that organises the annual vigil.
The Hong Kong Alliance disbanded in September, amid accusations from the government that the organisation was working for foreign interests. Leaders of the alliance categorically denied the accusations.
Of the 26 activists arrested, 16 of them including prominent Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong have pleaded guilty and were handed jail sentences ranging between four and 10 months. Three were given suspended sentences.
Two other activists in the case, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung, have fled the city.
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