Hong Kong activist Chow convicted for second Tiananmen 'incitement'
Chow Hang-tung has proved a fiery defendant throughout her multiple prosecutions Bertha WANG AFP/File

Jailed Hong Kong democracy activist Chow Hang-tung was found guilty on Tuesday of inciting residents to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown, her second conviction over a chapter of China's past that is now being scrubbed in the finance hub.

Chow, a 36-year-old lawyer who has represented herself at multiple court hearings, is a former leader of the Hong Kong Alliance.

The now-disbanded group used to organize the city's huge annual candlelight vigils to mourn those killed in Beijing on June 4, 1989 when China sent troops to crush democracy protests.

Police banned the last two vigils citing the coronavirus and security fears and the courts have already jailed multiple activists who defied that ban in 2020, including Chow.

But Chow was also arrested on the morning of June 4 last year over two pieces she published calling on residents to light candles and mark the crackdown anniversary.

On Tuesday, a court ruled those articles amounted to inciting others to defy the police ban.

"The law never allows anyone to exercise their freedom by unlawful means," magistrate Amy Chan ruled.

"She (Chow) was determined to attract and publish attention for the purpose of calling on the public to gather," she added.

Chow has proved a fiery defendant throughout her multiple prosecutions.

She used her mitigation on Tuesday to read from the memoirs of families of people killed at Tiananmen.

That sparked a dressing down from Magistrate Chan, followed by applause among some in the public gallery. Chan then ordered police to take down the identity numbers of those who had applauded.

Chow also condemned the court's verdict and said authorities were criminalizing speech.

"The message this verdict sends is that lighting a candle is guilty, that words are guilty," she said.

"The only way to defend free speech is to continue to express," she added.

Sentencing will be handed down later on Tuesday.

Hong Kong was formerly the only place in China where mass commemoration of Tiananmen was still tolerated.

But China is remolding the city in its own authoritarian image after huge and sometimes violent democracy protests in 2019.

Hong Kong Alliance leaders, including Chow, are among dozens of activists being prosecuted under a new security law.

A museum the group ran has been shuttered while multiple statues commemorating June 4 have been pulled down in recent weeks from university campuses.

© 2022 AFP