Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong was one of four people who pleaded guilty on Friday. Photo: Facebook / Joshua Wong
HONG KONG: Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong was one of four people who pleaded guilty on Friday to participating in an illegal assembly on June 4 last year to commemorate the 1989 crackdown on protesters in the surrounding area Beijing‘s Tiananmen square.
It was the first time the vigil had been banned at the global financial center, and police cited, as they did with all demonstrations last year, coronavirus restrictions on group gatherings. It is expected to face a similar fate this year.
Still, tens of thousands of people lit candles across the city in what was largely a peaceful event last June, save for a brief skirmish with riot police in one neighborhood.
Wong, who was already in prison after being found guilty of participating in and organizing an unauthorized assembly during the massive pro-democracy protests in 2019, pleaded guilty in District Court.
The other activists who pleaded guilty were Lester Shum, Jannelle Leung, and Tiffany Yuen. Another activist, Eddie Chu, asked for a postponement and his case will be heard on June 11, and 19 others face similar charges.
The June 4 anniversary struck a particularly sensitive nerve in the former British colony last year, just as Beijing was preparing to introduce new security legislation that punishes anything that China considers subversion, secession, terrorism or collusion with foreign forces with up to life imprisonment.
While in prison, Wong was arrested in January on suspicion of violating the new law, which was introduced in July 2020, by participating in an unofficial vote to select opposition candidates for an election postponed since then, which authorities describe. as a “cruel plot” to “overthrow” the government.
This year, the June 4 event is particularly uncomfortable for Beijing, which celebrates the centenary of the communist party. Hong Kong Leader Carrie LamAsked whether commemorating the Tiananmen victims would violate the new security law, he said this week that it was important to show respect to the party.
Commemorations of the Tiananmen crackdown are banned in mainland China, but Hong Kong traditionally held the largest vigils globally each year, having been promised certain freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including rights to speech and assembly.
China has never provided a full account of the 1989 Tiananmen Square violence. The death toll given by officials was about 300, most of them soldiers, but human rights groups and witnesses say thousands may have died. of people.