HONG KONG (AP) — The organizers of a vigil commemorating China’s bloody 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square appeared in a Hong Kong court on Monday on charges of inciting others to participate in an unlawful assembly.
A total of 13 people were charged over the June 4 vigil, including Lee Cheuk-Yan, who chairs the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements of China. The alliance organizes the vigil, which is annual event.
Others charged include Jimmy Lai, founder of the Apple Daily newspaper and a pro-democracy advocate, as well as activists and alliance members Richard Tsoi and Albert Ho.
Police had ruled that this year’s vigil could not take place due to restrictions put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic, but organizers turned up to sit in the usual vigil venue, Victoria Park. Thousands eventually followed suit.
Days later, they were charged for inciting others to participate in the banned protest.
“Today we are supposedly on trial, but we believe it is the Hong Kong government, the police that should be put on trial and will be put on trial because of the suppression of our right to mourn on June 4,” Lee said.
“This is a complete denial of our rights under the constitutional Basic Law,” he said.
The group held up posters and banners condemning the government for suppressing the vigil and opposing political prosecution.
They also took a moment of silence to mark the death anniversary of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who died of liver cancer in 2017 while serving a 11-year jail sentence for “subversion of state power.”