7 activists jailed over 2020 anti-security law rally in HK

HONG KONG • Seven Hong Kong democracy campaigners, including former lawmakers, were sentenced yesterday to up to 12 months in jail for their role in a protest last year against a sweeping national security law imposed by China.

The seven had pleaded guilty to charges that included organising the unauthorised assembly on July 1 last year, when thousands of protesters took to the streets.

Police, which had banned the demonstration citing coronavirus restrictions, fired tear gas and water cannon to disperse them.

The activists included Figo Chan, a former convener of the now-disbanded Civil Human Rights Front; Tsang Kin-shing and Tang Sai-lai of the League of Social Democrats; former district councillor Andy Chui; and former legislators Wu Chi-wai, Eddie Chu and Leung Kwok-hung.

Chan was jailed for 12 months, while the others were given sentences of six to 10 months.

"The nature of incitement was serious," said Judge Douglas Yau, noting that it created the risk of violence.

Beijing imposed a national security law on June 30 last year as a response to widespread anti-government protests in 2019 that roiled the city. The law, drawn up by China, sets out to punish those guilty of subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

The protest took place the next day - the first full day under the new law, though civil society groups had held rallies on July 1 for years to champion various issues, including democratic rights.

Separately, a top global law firm will no longer represent the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the United States for helping China purge dissent, The Washington Post reported.

Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West.

The 8m-high "Pillar of Shame" sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has sat on HKU's campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured bodies piled on one another and commemorates democracy protesters killed by Chinese troops at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 17, 2021, with the headline '7 activists jailed over 2020 anti-security law rally in HK'. Subscribe