In this file photo, Chow Hang-tung, vice president of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements, holds a press conference in Hong Kong on Sept. 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, archive)

HONG KONG (AP) — Three Hong Kong activists from a now-defunct group that held vigils to commemorate China’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989 were sentenced on Saturday for failing to provide authorities with information about their organization under a national security law.

Chow Hang-tung, Tang Ngok-kwan and Tsui Hon-kwong were arrested in 2021 during the campaign against the city’s pro-democracy movement, after massive protests more than three years ago. They were the leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of China’s Democratic Patriotic Movements before it was disbanded under Beijing-imposed law.

The group was known for holding annual night vigils in Hong Kong on the anniversary of the military crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989. Critics say their dismantling demonstrates that freedoms promised when Hong Kong returned to China in 1997 are eroding. .

Before the group voted to disband, in August 2021, police demanded information about its operations and finances in relation to alleged ties to democracy groups overseas, accusing it of being a foreign agent .

But they refused to cooperate, arguing that the police arbitrarily classified pro-democracy organizations as foreign agents and that they had no right to make such a request because the group did not belong to this category and that the request was not sufficiently justified.

Under the Security Act, the chief of police may request certain information from a foreign official, and failure to comply may be punishable by six months’ imprisonment and a fine of HK$100,000 (12,740 dollars).

In his decision on Saturday, Chief Justice Peter Law said the defendants had a duty to respond to the notice, which he called “fair and legal” and that their failure to comply was unjustified.

The alliance had been actively working with various entities and individuals overseas, the judge added, which made it necessary to examine their relationships and relationships to determine their affiliation and purpose.

The vigil was the only large-scale public commemoration of the June 4 crackdown and was massively attended until it was banned in 2020 due to measures against the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2021, Chow and two other former leaders of the alliance, Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, were charged with incitement to overthrow state power based on security law. The group itself has also been accused of subversion.

The National Security Law sanctions secession, subversion, and collaborating with foreign forces to intervene in the affairs of the semi-autonomous city, as well as terrorism. In addition to activists, pro-democracy editor Jimmy Lai also faces charges of colluding with the regime, which has imprisoned or silenced many dissidents.

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