Gwyneth Ho turned up at Victoria Park in June 4, 2020. (File photo)

Hongkonger tells court she was at banned vigil to signify resistance, not to join event

A Hong Kong woman who went to a June 4 candlelight vigil last year said her presence was a show of defiance against the authorities that did not translate into participation in the banned event, a court heard on Tuesday.

Defendant Gwyneth Ho said she decided to turn up at Victoria Park after the police issued a letter of objection to the organisers on June 1, 2020, that barred the planned mass gathering due to Covid-19.

The authorities’ hidden motive behind the letter was to scare people into keeping away from the park on June 4, at a time when Hong Kong was close to rolling out national security laws, said Ho, a former journalist.

“I went to Victoria Park that night to resist and directly oppose the police,” she testified in the District Court to argue against a charge of taking part in the unauthorised assembly.

The organising party, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, had cancelled the annual public rally after the police’s decision, and any individual could enter the park that night, she said.

“There was candlelight in the football pitches. I lit a candle but I was not participating in a candlelight vigil,” she said.

Ho added that she understood the alliance had asked people, in view of the ban, not to visit Victoria Park, but to light candles instead in other places across the city so “flowers would blossom everywhere” on the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Head prosecutor Laura Ng put to Ho that, by wearing a black outfit, carrying a bunch of flowers, holding a candle in her hand and standing still when a minute of silence was observed, she was attending the prohibited candlelight vigil allegedly held by the alliance as part of the crowd mourning June 4 victims in the park that night.

Ho replied: “Mourning June 4 is not important to me. I did not raise the candle. Rather, actions must be taken to keep alive the spirit of the democratic movement in 1989.”

She also explained that her act of standing still did not mean she was observing the minute of silence, but was intended to avoid disturbing people around her. Her black attire was a symbol of defying the authorities after a social movement in 2019, not to blend in with the mourners, if there was such a crowd at all, she added.

Ho further told the court that in the past, she rarely made an appearance at the alliance’s yearly vigil, because she disliked the way it commemorated the June 4 crackdown. 

She believed people were at Victoria Park on the night of June 4, 2020, for their own reasons as, after Hongkongers went through the 2019 social movement with “no big platform” or leadership, they did not need anyone to tell them what to do any more, the court heard.

As of Tuesday, Ho and co-defendant Chow Hang-tung have finished their testimonies in the trial. Chow, a former vice-chairwoman of the alliance, faces charges of taking part and of inciting others to take part in the unauthorised assembly, contrary to common law and the Public Order Ordinance. Media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been charged with inciting others to take part, while Ho is accused of taking part in the event.

The trial will continue on Thursday before Judge Amanda Woodcock.

By Y.S. Luk