National Security: Transfer of Hong Kong Tiananmen Vigil Organizers’ Case to High Court Adjourned Again

The former leaders of now-defunct Hong Kong, organizer of the city’s annual Tiananmen vigils, had their case transferred to the magistrate’s court adjourned until May 31.

Former Chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance for Patriotic Democratic Movements of China Lee Cheuk-yan and former Vice Presidents Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung appeared before Chief Magistrate Peter Law in court on Tuesday West Kowloon Trial Court.

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Photo: May James/HKFP.

The trio, along with the since-disbanded group, have been charged under Beijing’s national security law for allegedly inciting subversion. The alliance, which dissolved in September last year, was represented in court by lawyer Priscilia Lam on behalf of the official receiver.

Tuesday was the second time Lee, Ho and Chow appeared in court for the transfer of their case. The first attempt to transfer the case to the High Court, where the maximum sentence for incitement to subversion is 10 years’ imprisonment, was adjourned in February because the alliance had no representative.

The group was then due to appear in court in March, but the hearing was postponed. The judiciary suspended most court cases last month due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Hearings resumed on April 11.

Under reporting restrictions on committal proceedings – whereby a magistrate determines whether there is enough evidence for the case to be transferred to the High Court for trial or sentencing – written and broadcast reports are limited to include some details. Only the names of the accused, magistrates and lawyers, the alleged offence, the court’s decision, whether legal aid was granted and future court dates may be mentioned.

West Kowloon Magistrates Courts. Photo: Peter Lee/HKFP.

Chow has been in pretrial detention since last September on national security charges. The lawyer has since been sentenced to prison for the banned Tiananmen vigils in 2020 and 2021.

Lee and Ho were already serving prison terms on protest-related charges when they were prosecuted under the National Security Act, which also criminalized secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption of transportation and other infrastructure.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – after a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming Democrats, civil society groups and business partners, as these laws have been widely used to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.

The alliance held Hong Kong’s annual candlelight vigils to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown, which took place on June 4, 1989, ending months of student protests in China. It is estimated that hundreds, if not thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

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