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Politics

Hong Kong's Joshua Wong gets 10-month sentence for Tiananmen event

Authorities decline to process application for this year's June 4 commemoration

Chow Hang-tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said after Joshua Wong’s sentencing that group members will again light candles to mark the anniversary of the 1989 crackdown.   © Reuters

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong has been sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for joining an unauthorized observance last June of Beijing's crackdown on Tiananmen protesters in 1989.

Wong, who pled guilty, was sentenced on Thursday along with three opposition politicians who received sentences of four to six months. Wong is already serving a 13.5-month prison term over his role in street protests in 2019.

Judge Chan Kwong-chi said the defendants had "openly defied the law" and their actions had been "deliberate and premeditated," though a defense lawyer said that the commemoration was peaceful and orderly.

Wong, 24, is also facing a subversion charge for running in the democracy camp's primary election, held weeks after China's new national security law came into effect last June. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.

Hong Kong authorities said last week that they would not process organizers' application for a June 4 commemoration this time, citing continuing COVID restrictions on public gatherings.

Alongside Wong, opposition politician Lester Shum, 27, was handed a jail term of six months. Jannelle Leung and Tiffany Yuen, aged 26 to 27, were sentenced to four months in prison. The trio will immediately lose their seats on the city's neighborhood-level district councils.

Other co-defendants in the case, including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and 19 other pro-democracy figures, have not yet entered pleas and are to be tried at a later date. Two defendants, Nathan Law and Sunny Cheung, have fled the city, with Law winning asylum in the U.K.

Joshua Wong, pictured in March, is already serving a 13.5-month prison term over his role in street protests in 2019.   © AP

For the past three decades, Hong Kong had been the only territory under Chinese control where commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown was allowed.

Authorities in the financial hub banned the annual vigil last year for the first time, citing coronavirus restrictions on social gatherings. Tens of thousands of people turned up in the city's Victoria Park peacefully nonetheless.

While the government has not directly outlawed observances, Chief Executive Carrie Lam recently said that city residents need to "respect the ruling Communist Party," adding that whether vigil participants run afoul of the security law "depends greatly on what happens in the gathering."

Highlighting the authorities' increasing sensitivity over Tiananmen, the certification of a public school teacher was recently permanently revoked, with local media citing class discussion of the 1989 events in Beijing.

China has yet to provide a full accounting of the Tiananmen crackdown, in which rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people died.

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