Hong Kong Rights Group Leaders Say They Are Prepared For Jail

The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China could see half its leadership in jail by the end of the month.
Hong Kong Rights Group Leaders Say They Are Prepared For Jail Former lawmaker Albert Ho (center) leaves West Kowloon Court in Hong Kong after being found guilty on April 16, 2021 of organizing an unauthorized assembly held on Aug. 18, 2019.

A Hong Kong rights group that has organized candlelight vigils marking the 1989 Tiananmen massacre for the past three decades says several of its key members could soon face jail, as a further 10 veteran activists plead guilty to "illegal assembly" charges.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said it would keep going with its human rights work despite the fact that around half of its leadership are currently facing jail terms under a city-wide crackdown on public dissent and peaceful opposition under a national security law imposed by Beijing.

Many of those facing jail are veteran leaders of the Alliance, who have been actively involved with organizing annual vigils marking the June 4, 1989 bloodshed, as well as running a museum dedicated to the mass, student-led democracy movement that saw hundreds of thousands occupy Tiananmen Square in the weeks leading up to the massacre.

But Alliance secretary-general Richard Choi said that those who still have their liberty won't give up, and are mentally prepared to be arrested at any time.

"We won't forget our original mission, and we will keep the faith and bear this risk calmly," Choi said.

Vice chairman and veteran human rights lawyer Albert Ho said he had no regrets about participating in "illegal assemblies," charges that are increasingly being brought against pro-democracy politicians and peaceful activists in Hong Kong's courts since the 2019 protest movement.

"We won't have any regrets," Ho said. "Our loss of liberty will [eventually] mean that more people can exercise their civil rights and speak their minds in a peaceful manner."

"We will have no hesitation whatsoever," he said.

'Illegal assembly'

Their comments came as Choi, along with Alliance chairman and former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan pleaded guilty to "organizing an illegal assembly" on Oct. 1, 2019.

Former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung, Albert Ho, Yeung Sum, and Cyd Ho also pleaded guilty at the District Court on Monday, as did pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai and activists Figo Chan and Avery Ng.

Chan, Lee, Leung, and Albert Ho also pleaded guilty to "inciting others" to take part in an "illegal assembly" on Sept. 30, 2019.

Judge Amanda Woodcock will deliver their sentences on May 28, after hearing mitigation pleas.

Chan told reporters on Monday: "I hope other people will carry on finding ways to speak out, whether it's on June 4, July 1, or other dates, to defend our freedoms, democracy, and justice."

Earlier this month, the District Court handed jail terms to jailed democracy activist Joshua Wong and three opposition members of the city's District Council for attending last year's Tiananmen massacre vigil in defiance of a ban that was ostensibly linked to coronavirus restrictions.

City-wide crackdown

The ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has presided over a city-wide crackdown on peaceful protest and political opposition since imposing a draconian national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020.

The law, which saw China's feared state security police set up a headquarters in Hong Kong to oversee "serious" cases, has been widely criticized by governments, rights groups, and lawyers as an assault on Hong Kong's traditional freedoms of speech, association, and political participation.

In December, 27 opposition politicians and democracy activists were arrested for "subversion" under the law after they held a democratic primary designed to maximize their chances of winning seats in the Legislative Council (LegCo).

The authorities responded by postponing the election and arresting those who took part in the primary.

Civil servants have been resigning at record rates since the law took effect, while a recent survey of expats found that around 40 percent had definite plans to leave Hong Kong.

More than 1,800 civil servants resigned during the year ending April 2021, the Civil Service Bureau said in documents submitted to LegCo, around one percent of the entire government payroll, government broadcaster RTHK reported.

A further 6,000 civil servants retired during the same period, three percent of the total payroll, including nearly 150 department heads, around 10 percent of the total at that pay grade, according to the Economic Times newspaper.

Reported by Gigi Lee and Cheng Yut Yiu for RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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