Eight jailed for up to 14 months over June 4 vigil

The District Court on Monday sentenced eight activists to between 4.5 months and 14 months in prison for their roles in a banned June 4 vigil in Victoria Park last year.

Lee Cheuk-yan, Richard Tsoi, Leung Yiu-chung, Leung Kam-wai and Wu Chi-wai earlier pleaded guilty to organising, joining or inciting others to join the vigil, while Jimmy Lai, Chow Hang-tung and Gwyneth Ho were convicted after trial.

Announcing their punishments, judge Amanda Woodcock said the defendants had posed a threat to public health safety by breaching a police ban on the rally and deterrent sentences were needed.

Woodcock said the defendants “wrongly and arrogantly” believed that their commemoration of June 4 was more important than the rights of others and the need to prevent serious health risks.

She stressed that the government’s social distancing measures were not “a tool of suppression” as some suggested, but were aimed at preventing the spread of Covid.

She added that organisers could have moved the vigil online in light of the pandemic, but had not.

The judge also said she would not consider the defendants’ political beliefs and stances in sentencing, but said it was an aggravating factor that as public figures, they took up frontline roles in an unauthorised rally.

She also said she had taken into account that some defendants had attended the banned vigil while still on court bail, although she noted that Leung Yiu-chung only had a passive or “almost reluctant” role in the event.

Lee, who had pleaded guilty to three charges, was given 14 months in prison for his leadership role in the rally. The sentence is to be served concurrently with prison terms he received for other protest-related offences.

Lai, who was also already behind bars, was given 13 months in prison for inciting others to join the vigil, with this sentence also to be served concurrently with other protest-related jail terms.

The judge sentenced Tsoi and Chow to 12 months, Leung Yiu-chung and Leung Kam-wai to nine months, Ho to six months and Wu to four months and two weeks.