Four Hong Kong activists were found guilty and sentenced to prison on May 5 for their participation in unauthorized anti-Beijing gatherings during National Day protests in October 2019.
The heaviest sentence of four years and eight months was handed down to Chan Hang, a 40-year-old janitor who was caught on camera throwing objects at police and burning a banner on the street during unrest in Tsuen Wan that day, according to the South China Morning Post. He was found guilty of rioting and arson.
Judge Ernest Michael Lin Kam-hung sentenced the remaining three—Chan Kam-kwok, a 21-year-old kitchen worker; Lee Chun-man, a 27-year-old programmer; and Kwok Siu-kam, a 24-year-old social work assistant—to prison terms ranging from four to eight years. They were convicted despite the fact that there was no evidence that they had committed any violent acts, according to the SCMP.
The judge ruled that even non-violent witnesses to the incident were culpable.
As a result, he found the other three guilty of rioting, claiming that their black attire and presence “in the eye of the storm” were sufficient evidence that they had either participated in or aided others in rioting.
The quad was sentenced under Hong Kong’s national security law, which was imposed in June last year by Beijing’s rubber-stamp legislature, the People’s Congress.
The protests and unrest occurred on the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) founding, which commemorates China’s communist party’s (CCP) ascension to power in 1949. Hong Kong police denied the Civil Human Rights Front (CHRF) a permit for an annual march to commemorate the CCP’s rule just days before the anniversary.
Regardless, the four veteran democracy activists urged Hong Kong residents to join demonstrations in their own names.
Rallies took place in a variety of locations, including Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, and Sham Shui Po. They began peacefully, but violent incidents occurred later in the day. Hong Kong police shot and killed Tsang Chi-kin, an 18-year-old male school student.
According to the Hong Kong-based Headline Daily, between June 9, 2019, and February 28, 2021, police made 100,242 arrests. Approximately 2,521 cases have been filed in court, with 720 suspects facing rioting charges. Other alleged offenses include illegal assembly, arson, and insulting China’s national flag.
Under Hong Kong’s national security law, Beijing can sentence anyone to life in prison for any action it deems to be secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces.
Tanya Chan, a former Hong Kong Legislative Councilor, stated on the day the law was passed that it was the “death certificate” for China’s “One Country, Two Systems” policy.
Just one day later, the Hong Kong Bar Association issued an official statement claiming that the Hong Kong national security law “erode[s] the high degree of autonomy” guaranteed to the city by the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration, as well as “undermine[s] core pillars of the One Country Two Systems model, including independent judicial power.”