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Hong Kong activists charged over traditional Tiananmen vigil

Twenty-five Hong Kong democracy activists have been charged with taking part in a banned June candlelight vigil marking the anniversary of China’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

They included the prominent activist Joshua Wong, the media tycoon Jimmy Lai and leaders of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. They were formally charged on Thursday with “knowingly taking part in an unauthorised assembly”.

Lai has been a major financial patron of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The 71-year-old is the founder of Next Media, publisher of the popular anti-government Apple Daily newspaper.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the alliance, was also charged, with organising the assembly on 4 June at the city’s Victoria Park.

Thirteen of those indicted were already facing incitement charges over the same event with some pleading not guilty in court.

The annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong usually attracts huge crowds and is the only place on Chinese territory where such a major commemoration of the crackdown is allowed.

But city authorities banned the event in June for the first time in 30 years, citing measures to control the spread of coronavirus.

Thousands defied the ban to mourn the victims of the massacre, after the city’s legislature passed a law criminalising the mockery of China’s national anthem.

On 30 June Beijing imposed a controversial national security law on Hong Kong, giving the Chinese government sweeping powers. It targets the crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with penalties as severe as life in prison.

“Hong Kong residents enjoy rights of assembly and demonstration under the Basic Law. The police’s suppression and ban on the June 4 assembly is completely driven by politics,” the Alliance said in a statement, adding that members do not fear political persecution.

Wong, 23, said on Facebook: “Clearly the regime plans to stage another crackdown on the city’s activists.

“As our voices might not be heard soon, we hope the world can continue speaking up for the city’s liberty and human rights.”

All 25 are expected to appear in court on 15 September.

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