Vigil 12 jailed for 'arrogantly ignoring' crisis

Top News | Erin Chan 16 Sep 2021

Twelve activists, including solicitor Albert Ho Chun-yan, have been sentenced to four to 10 months in jail for participating in a banned June 4 candlelight vigil last year.

District Court judge Amanda Woodcock yesterday said the 12 "wrongly and arrogantly" believed the cause of the vigil was more important than protecting the community from a public health crisis amid the pandemic.

The sentencing yesterday - the second one imposed on organizers and participants of the vigil - was attended by pro-democracy figures such as former lawmaker Helena Wong Pik-wan and Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.

Of the 12, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China's former member Leung Kwok-wah, 62, was jailed for four months but suspended for a year.

Former lawmakers, including "Long Hair" Leung Kwok-hung, 65, Cyd Ho Sau-lan, 67, Eddie Chu Hoi-dick, 43, and Yeung Sum, 73, were sentenced to six months in jail.

The alliance's former chairman Mak Hoi-wah, 70, and former members Cheung Man-kwong, 66, and Chiu Yan-loy, 36, along with Labour Party chairman Steven Kwok Wing-kin, 34, were jailed for eight months.

Ho, also the alliance's former vice chairman, 69, former member Andrew Wan Siu-kin, 52, and the now dissolved Civil Human Rights Front's former convener Figo Chan Ho-wun, 25, were sentenced to 10 months in jail.

The latest jail sentences of Albert Ho, Leung, Cyd Ho, Chan and Yeung - who are currently imprisoned for other protest-related cases - will concurrently run with their existing ones.

Meanwhile, Mak and Cheung were sentenced to eight months each but suspended for 18 months, and Leung Kwok-wah was jailed for four months but suspended for a year, mainly due to their clean criminal records, health conditions and public service.

All of them pleaded guilty last week to one count of knowingly taking part in an unauthorized assembly.

Seven of them - Albert Ho, Mak, Cheung, Chiu, Wan, Kwok and Chan - also pleaded guilty to an additional incitement charge.

Police denied the alliance's application for holding the vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 last year, citing public health concerns tied to the pandemic, but the seven lit candles and hoisted them while standing near a fountain in the park on the day.

Some of them also pushed down metal barriers surrounding a football pitch, before entering the premises to chant slogans and present flowers there.

Woodcock said the fact that the vigil did not lead to another wave of infections did not make defendants less culpable.

"The defendants could not foresee whether the vigil's participants would obey social-distancing measures and there were participants who did not obey so indeed," Woodcock said.

"It was pure luck that another wave of Covid-19 cases did not erupt."

Even though the right to assemble is governed by the Basic Law, it is also subject to restrictions such as public health concerns and public order, Woodcock said, adding: "Organizers could have turned to other creative means to commemorate June 4, such as interactive online vigil."

Woodcock said she had to hand down a heavier sentence to some defendants who were public figures and politicians.

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