Hong Kong, May 6 (EFE).- Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong was sentenced Friday to 10 months in jail for joining an annual vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre in June, which was banned due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was the third time in five months the 24 year old was handed a jail sentence for taking part in pro-democracy rallies. The latest jail term will be added to two others he received and is currently serving, totaling 17 and a half months, for his roles in unauthorized protests held during the 2019 anti-government protest movement in Hong Kong.
“It is clear that what the defendants did was premeditated… They openly defied the law, knowing that they had no authority for taking part in an unauthorized assembly,” District Court Judge Stanley Chan said before announcing the sentence.
The government had banned the annual June vigil for the first time in 30 years citing coronavirus restrictions.
In addition to Wong, three of his fellow activists, Tiffany Yuen, 27, Jannell Leung, 26, and Lester Shum 27, elected as district councilors in 2019, received a prison sentence of four to six months on the same charge. They previously pleaded guilty to one count of knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly.
Chan said that while the Basic Law, Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, guarantees freedom of assembly, such freedom is “not absolute” and is “subject to restrictions regardless of the status of the participants.”
Chan said tensions remained high from the 2019 anti-government protests at the time the vigil was held, adding that this posed a risk for the event, which saw some 20,000 people gather Jun. 4 at soccer pitches at Victoria Park.
“Emotion can run high and unruly elements can take advantage to take the opportunity to incite and encourage violence,” he said.
The annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, home to a considerable number of migrants who fled to the city from political repression and economic hardship in mainland China, remained a peaceful rally. It is the biggest yearly event in the world commemorating the bloody Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 1989.
Tens of thousands of people defied the ban and flooded to Victoria Park to attend the event, which will be banned again this year, also because of pandemic concerns.
In August 2020, two months after the rally, police charged the four and 20 other activists, including billionaire media mogul Jimmy Lai, veteran activist “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, and Lee Cheuk-yan, vice president of the Confederation of Hong Kong Trade Unions, for their involvement in the vigil.
The case for the 20, who have been expected to plead not guilty, will begin in June. EFE