Crowd gathered at Victoria Park to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen military action in June 4, 2020. (File photo)

Public calls to enter Victoria Park for June 4 vigil were proof of incitement, says prosecution

The alleged organiser of an unauthorised June 4 assembly in Hong Kong last year interacted multiple times with the public at the event venue that evening, prosecutors said on Monday to support their case that the organiser’s members were inciting other people to join in. 

Video footage played in the District Court showed Lee Cheuk-yan, then chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, asking people through a loudhailer to enter Victoria Park and to keep making an effort to commemorate the Beijing Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989. 

Last Monday before trial, Lee had pleaded guilty to three charges including incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly. Chow Hang-tung, who was alliance vice-chairwoman at the time of the June 4, 2020, rally, has entered not-guilty pleas.

As the trial continued into its second week, Chow testified that not everyone in Victoria Park that night was able to hear what Lee was saying, and hence it could not be concluded the alliance was inciting others to take part in the unlawful candlelight vigil.

Chow also reiterated her earlier argument, that the alliance had publicly announced in advance the cancellation of its proposed mass gathering due to a police ban.

“The mass gathering of 50,000 to 100,000 participants planned by the alliance, with a stage setup, audio equipment and marshals managing the crowds, did not exist in 2020,” she said.

The alliance had said in its announcement that its members would enter Victoria Park to mark June 4 as a group of its own instead, Chow told the court. Other individuals could also exercise their freedom to enter Victoria Park or other places and light candles on their own, she said.

Head prosecutor Laura Ng noted that, just before the beginning of the 8pm candle lighting ceremony, Lee remarked via a loudhailer that people were everywhere in five of the football pitches. Lee’s words suggested that he was regarding the scene as a public gathering, Ng said.

Lee used a loudhailer again when the ceremony came to an end, commenting how all six football pitches were being lit up by candles. Ng suggested that he was feeling pleased as this implicitly meant the candlelight vigil had been successful. 

Chow replied that the alliance was indeed pleased to note candlelight everywhere in Hong Kong that night, as it had earlier appealed to the public to mourn victims of the June 4 crackdown in different places.

She concluded her testimony by repeating her denial of charges of taking part and of inciting others to take part in the unauthorised assembly.

Another defendant, Gwyneth Ho, testified that she did not agree with the alliance’s ways of remembering June 4 but showed up at Victoria Park last year and sat down in one of the football pitches anyway.

“Although I don’t agree with the alliance, the authorities were using the pandemic as an excuse to suppress its rally. The alliance should not be suppressed. I went to Victoria Park to resist the prohibition,” said Ho, a former journalist.

She said that, to her understanding, the alliance’s mass gathering had been scrapped but the government and police continued to frighten people into staying away from Victoria Park, and she had gone there to resist the authorities, just as others were there for differing reasons.

“There was not a single platform to host the candlelight vigil last year,” Ho said.

“There were people shouting slogans related to the June 4 crackdown. There were also people chanting ‘Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times’. Lee’s weight and role in Victoria Park is no different from the people waving the Hong Kong independence flag.”

Ho will continue her testimony on Tuesday as she fights a charge of taking part in the unauthorised assembly. The third defendant is media tycoon Jimmy Lai, who faces one count of inciting others to take part.

Chow’s defence counsel, Cheung Yiu-leung, wanted to call another witness, Han Dongfang, on Monday, but Judge Amanda Woodcock rejected the witness as irrelevant.

The court did not hear about Han’s background, but he is known to have been a labour rights activist who helped set up the Beijing Workers’ Autonomous Federation in 1989. The federation was disbanded after the June 4 crackdown.

Cheung said his intention was to let the court hear that Han was not incited by the alliance to appear at Victoria Park on June 4 last year; rather, the park was a symbolic place to him on that important day and he had gone there due to personal reasons.

The June 4 candlelight vigil was an annual event held by the alliance to mark the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Hong Kong police issued a letter of objection to the alliance’s application last year on the grounds of Covid-19.

By Y.S. Luk