Speed Reads

A candle in the darkness

Hong Kong activist sentenced for creating 'public health risk' by inciting Tiananmen vigil

A Hong Kong court sentenced pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung to 15 months in prison for writing a social media post and a newspaper article supporting commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, Reuters reports.

Chow is a former vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organized annual candlelight vigils in memory of those who died in Tiananmen Square. The alliance opted to disband in September 2021 after all its leaders were arrested, the Hong Kong Free Press reported.

Magistrate Amy Chan argued that Chow's article and her post — which read "Lighting a candle is not a crime: Stand one's ground" — incited an illegal gathering that constituted a "public health crisis." Chow argued that her intention was to encourage remembrance, not to incite gatherings.

According to CNN, for "three decades, Hong Kong has been the only place on Chinese-controlled soil allowed to publicly commemorate the events in and around Tiananmen Square, during which unarmed mostly student protesters were brutally suppressed by Chinese troops."

Police banned the vigils in 2020 and 2021, but illegal vigils took place both years. The cancellations were ostensibly intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Critics of the pro-Beijing regime dispute this explanation, instead tying the cancellations to the Chinese Communist Party's crackdown on the formerly self-governing enclave. Hong Kong's universities removed a pair of monuments to the Tiananmen victims last month.  

Chow was sentenced last month to 12 months in prison for her role in the 2020 vigils. The court allowed her to serve 5 months of her new sentences concurrently, meaning she will be imprisoned for a total of 22 months.

News of Chow's second sentence comes just one day after one of Hong Kong's few remaining pro-democracy news publications closed its doors. A week prior, 7 people associated with online publication Stand News were arrested after a raid on the outlet's offices.