Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong who attended last year’s candlelight vigil in memory of China’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown have been sentenced to jail. The defendants included well-known and seasoned rally organizers such as Albert Ho and Figo Chan, and former lawmakers like Eddie Chu. Nine of the group will be imprisoned for periods of between six and 10 months; three other activists have received suspended sentences. All 12 pleaded guilty to taking part in an unauthorized assembly, with seven facing an extra charge of inciting others to do so, too.
The police banned the annual vigil last year, blaming it on potential risks from the pandemic. “The defendants ignored and belittled a genuine public health crisis,” the judge said in her Wednesday ruling, adding, “They wrongly and arrogantly believed their common purpose was more important than protecting the community or the public’s right to protection from a serious health risk.” Many saw the authorities’ moratorium as an attempt to quell freedom of speech and criticism of China.