Activists say Hong Kong leader CY Leung conspired with police to ban pro-democracy group in 2011
Several Hong Kong activists are facing prison sentences of up to a decade after being charged under the city’s constitution for having held a “peaceful” vigil in 2011 to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Organisers were concerned that the commemorations would trigger renewed public scrutiny of the failure of China’s communist government to deal with Tiananmen and other human rights violations during decades of hostile, secret-tactical relations with Hong Kong.
In 2011, before democracy protesters triggered weeks of tense clashes between anti-protest and pro-democracy protesters, a group of pro-democracy activists organised a small peace rally in support of the 1989 rallies and remember those killed.
CY Leung, Hong Kong leader of pro-China camp at time of vigil, was arrested and is currently in custody © AFP
The action attracted little notice from local media, but its success prompted CY Leung, Hong Kong’s Beijing-backed leader at the time, to protest against the gathering in front of police headquarters in the midst of his own protests with protesters, according to local media.
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At the time, Leung said: “I believe that is an extremely cynical event organised by people who are not willing to step up to the plate and show their commitment to Hong Kong’s interests.”
Hong Kong allows only three days of scheduled public protest per year, with a political circle of experts advising that any protests considered to include any threats to public order should be banned.
Protesters marked the events of 1989 in Hong Kong’s Admiralty area with a 20-minute vigil, followed by a speech from a single pro-democracy lawmaker.
They were hit with charges under the Basic Law, the independent legal system Hong Kong adopted to avoid the erosion of freedoms that Beijing had promised to the city, as well as charges of “inciting hatred, disaffection and violent revolt”.
Eight activists were charged at the time of the incident in which men armed with sticks approached the press.
Some protesters were injured in the ensuing scuffles and the men were later acquitted of the charges.
But some activists say the episode shows that CY Leung conspired with police to ban the event in order to shield the Chinese government from further political heat.
“Mr Leung had hoped that by co-operating with the police’s request to ban the event, he would be able to evade criticism about his pro-Beijing stance,” wrote Nick Bilton in 2015, writing about the incident for Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post.
“Although he was injured and the incident led to some arrests, there was no political storm on the streets … So he could try to deflect criticism by presenting himself as a strong leader for Hong Kong.”
The activists were: Takeo Koichi, 22, a former student leader; Pak Fai-hei, 25, a political cartoonist; Betty Lo, 24, a well-known musician; Ng Kee-shing, 22, a former bank employee; Youngspiration founder Thong Lai-shue, 24; and Lung Sze-chun, 32, a vocal gay rights activist.
They are all facing between 2 and 6 years in prison if convicted.
According to the Times, Hong Kong’s top judge has said the charges should be dropped because it was “impossible to prove intent of a group”.
There have been warnings of a rising tide of intolerance under the rule of Donald Tsang, the current British-appointed leader of Hong Kong.
His administration has cracked down on the news media, raised the rate of fines against protesters and imposed a fine of $185,000 on the pro-democracy party New Tang Dynasty Television.