Imprisoned human rights lawyer and labour rights advocate Chow Hang-tung was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights by the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation in May 2023. The Gwangju Prize is awarded to individuals and organizations who have contributed significantly to the development of human rights, unification, solidarity, and peace.
As a barrister in Hong Kong, Chow Hang-tung defended political activists targeted by the National Security Law (NSL) until she herself was targeted. Since its enactment in June 2020, the NSL has been used to arrest and suppress numerous politicians, journalists and human rights activists. Over 100 civil society organizations disbanded or left Hong Kong in response to the threat generated by the law. Political opposition was effectively silenced after the arrest of over 50 people in January 2022.
Charged for keeping the memory of Tiananmen Square alive
On September 9, 2021 Chow Hang-tung was charged with “inciting subversion” under Hong Kong’s National Security Law and faces up a potential ten years prison sentence. At the time, she was vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Alliance) which had organized the annual Hong Kong vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown since 1990. For decades, the world’s largest commemoration of the Tiananmen crackdown took place in Hong Kong with tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of people joined a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.
In December 2021, Chow Hang-tung was sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment for taking part in an unauthorized assembly after joining a peaceful candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 2020. In January 2022, she received a 15-month prison sentence in a second conviction on the charge of “inciting others to take part in an unauthorised assembly” after she published a social media post asking people to continue to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown on June 4, 2021. While that second sentence was successfully appealed in December 2022, Chow Hang-tung and two other former Alliance members were sentenced to 4.5 months in March 2023 for failing to provide information under the NSL. She continues to face a ten-year sentenced under the other National Security Law charges.
By working to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive, Chow Hang-tung was exercising her fundamental human right of freedom of expression through peaceful means. Her case was featured in Write for Rights 2022 and Amnesty International continues to call for Chow Hang-tung to be released immediately.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Sign and share our action calling for the release of Chow Hang-tung.
Share a message of remembrance and solidarity on or around June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, using the hashtag #WeRemember64
Top photo: Chow Hang-tung speaking at a demonstration. Copyright Alex Chan.