West News Wire: For failing to furnish authorities with information on the group in accordance with a national security statute, three former organizers of Hong Kong’s yearly vigil in memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy protests were sentenced to 4 1/2 months in jail on Saturday.

Following significant protests more than three years prior, Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan, and Tsui Hon-kwong were detained in 2021 as part of a crackdown on the city’s pro-democracy movement. They were found guilty last week and served as the leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.

The now-defunct alliance was best known for planning candlelight vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the Chinese military’s crushing of pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square in 1989, but it voted to disband in 2021 under the shadow of the Beijing-imposed national security law.

Supporters say its closure has shown freedoms and autonomy that were promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 are diminishing.

Before its disbandment, police had sought details about its operations and finances in connection with alleged links to democracy groups overseas, accusing it of being a foreign agent. But the group refused to cooperate, arguing the police did not have a right to ask for its information because it was not a foreign agent and the authorities did not provide sufficient justification.

Under the security law’s implementation rules, the police chief can request a range of information from a foreign agent. Failure to comply with the request could result in six months in jail and a fine of 100,000 Hong Kong dollars ($12,740) if convicted.

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Chow denied the alliance was a foreign agent and said that nothing had emerged that proved otherwise. She said their sentencing as about punishing people for defending the truth.

She said national security is being used as a pretext to wage a war on civil society.

“Sir, sentence us for our insubordination if you must, but when the exercise of power is based on lies, being insubordinate is the only way to be human,” she said.

Handing down the sentences, Principal Magistrate Peter Law said the case is the first of its kind under the new law and the sentencing has to send a clear message that the law does not condone any violation.


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