Four Hong Kong activists were found guilty on May 5 and sentenced to jail for their involvement in unauthorized anti-Beijing protests on National Day in October 2019.
The heaviest sentence—four years and eight months—was handed to 40-year-old janitor Chan Hang, who was caught on camera throwing objects at police and burning a banner on the street during unrest in Tsuen Wan that day, the South China Morning Post reported. He was convicted of rioting and arson.
Judge Ernest Michael Lin Kam-hung sentenced the others—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 jail terms of more than four years. They were convicted even without evidence of violent acts, SCMP reported.
The judge, who ruled that even non-violent participants at the scene shared culpability, found the three guilty of rioting, claiming that their black attire and presence “in the eye of the storm” were enough to constitute evidence that they had either taken part in the riots or abetted others to do so.
The activists were sentenced under Hong Kong’s national security law, imposed by Beijing’s rubber-stamp legislature—the People’s Congress—in June last year.
The protests and unrest took place on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, which celebrates the Chinese Communist Party’s rise to power in 1949. Days before the anniversary, Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front was denied a permit by Hong Kong police for an annual march to protest the CCP’s rule.
Ignoring this, the four democracy activists called on Hong Kongers to join demonstrations in their own names.
Rallies held at multiple locations, including Tsuen Wan, Wong Tai Sin, Tuen Mun, Sha Tin, and Sham Shui Po, were initially peaceful but violent incidents occurred later during the day. Tsang Chi-kin, an 18-year-old male student, was shot dead by Hong Kong police.
According to Hong Kong-based Headline Daily, police have made 100,242 arrests between June 9, 2019, and Feb. 28. About 2,521 cases have entered judicial proceedings, including 720 suspects charged with rioting. Other alleged offenses include charges of illegal assembly, arson, and insulting China’s national flag.
Under Hong Kong’s national security law, Beijing can punish any action it deems as secession, subversion, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Tanya Chan, a former legislative councilor in Hong Kong, stated on the day of its approval that the law marked the “death certificate” of China’s “one country, two systems” policy.
The next day, the Hong Kong Bar Association issued an official statement, arguing that the Hong Kong national security law “erode[s] the high degree of autonomy” guaranteed to the city under the Basic Law and the Sino-British Joint Declaration and “undermine[s] core pillars of the One Country, Two Systems model including independent judicial power.”