Nine Hong Kong activists were jailed Wednesday for taking part in a ceremony honoring the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
The pro-democracy activists are facing up to 10 months in jail.
The nine are part of a group of 12 defendants who pleaded guilty earlier this month for participating in the ceremony. Three others were given suspended sentences.
The ceremony had traditionally been held every year to honor the June 4, 1989 student-led pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. The students called for an end to official corruption, political reforms and a more democratic society. The government response turned violent, and many demonstrators died.
All nine activists were charged with taking part in an illegal gathering. Seven of them are facing an additional charge of persuading others to take part in the event.
Police last year banned the annual ceremony for the first time in 30 years. Police said the ban was needed for public health reasons related to COVID-19, but critics say the ban is part of ongoing measures to stop political dissent. In 2019, there were months of anti-government protests in Hong Kong, which is a partly independent Chinese territory.
More than 12 activists first attended the June 4 ceremony despite the ban and thousands came later. The crowds broke through barriers set up around Victoria Park to light candles and sing songs.
Police later arrested over 20 activists, including leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. That is the group that organizes the yearly ceremony.
Among those sentenced Wednesday were lawyer Albert Ho and Figo Chan, former leader of the Civil Human Rights Front. They were already serving jail sentences over other illegal gatherings.
Eight others pleaded not guilty and will stand trial in November. Jimmy Lai, the founder of the closed Apple Daily newspaper, as well as alliance leader Lee Cheuk-yan, are among those who face trial.
The 2019 protests led Beijing to approve a national security law in Hong Kong last year. Under the law, anyone believed to be involved in terrorism or the weakening of state power could be tried and face life in prison. The government has arrested more than 100 people under the law.
Beijing and Hong Kong officials have been criticized for restricting freedoms promised to Hong Kong when the former British colony was handed over to China in 1997.
I’m Dan Novak.
Dan Novak adapted this story based on reporting by The Associated Press and Voice of America.
Words in This Story
plead — v. to say in court that you are either guilty or not guilty of a crime ; to make a plea
dissent – n. public disagreement with an official opinion, decision, or set of beliefs
candle – n. wax that has been formed into a stick or another shape and has a string in the middle that can be burned