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HK Tiananmen vigil organisers convicted

Three Hong Kong Alliance members, including prominent pro-democracy activist Chow Hang-tung, face up to six months in jail
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China standing committee member Chow Hang-tung speaks at a press conference at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong on Sept. 5, 2021

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China standing committee member Chow Hang-tung speaks at a press conference at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong on Sept. 5, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 04, 2023 06:01 AM GMT

Three former organisers of Hong Kong's annual vigil to commemorate Beijing's deadly Tiananmen crackdown were found guilty on Saturday for refusing to submit information to national security police.

The candlelight vigil was banned by authorities in 2020, weeks before Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law to stamp out political dissent in Hong Kong following large-scale and sometimes violent pro-democracy protests a year earlier.

The three defendents were found guilty of failing to comply with a request for information issued by authorities in 2021, which can lead to six months in jail and a maximum fine of HK$100,000 (US$12,745) under the security law.

"For prevention and investigation, information is the core... any obstruction would defeat the whole process," read the verdict by magistrate Peter Law, who is among a pool of judges handpicked by the city government to try national security cases.

The court is set to sentence Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong on March 11.

The Hong Kong Alliance -- of which the three were a part -- had organised an annual candlelight vigil for over three decades to mourn victims of China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

The Alliance was forced to disband in September 2021 after all seven members of its standing committee were charged in cases under the security law.

Five members, including vice chairwoman Chow, were prosecuted for refusing to provide information requested by the police.

The documents included the group's meeting minutes since 2014, and records of financial transactions with certain foreign political groups.

Under the security law, the police can demand a broad range of organisational, financial and operational details from any person or organisation deemed to be a "foreign agent" in Hong Kong.

The Alliance refused to comply with the police request, saying it was not a "foreign agent".

Two members, Leung Kam-wai and Chan To-wai, pleaded guilty and were each sentenced to three months in jail in 2021 and 2022.

Chow, Tang and Tsui pleaded not guilty and faced a 16-month prosecution and legal battle.

During the trial, much of the prosecution's evidence was heavily redacted or withheld -- even from the judge -- under a "public interest immunity".

The court also ruled that the prosecution did not need to prove the Alliance was a foreign agent.

During the trial, defence lawyer Albert Wong said the redaction of evidence and waiver of the burden of proof would "(allow) the Commissioner of Police to put a blank label of foreign agent to anybody".

Chow, a trained lawyer, defended herself and denied the group was a threat to security.

"If the Alliance was a threat to anything, it was a threat to the monopolisation of power and manipulation of truth," Chow said in her closing submission.

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