Hong Kong court jails sister of veteran labour activist for six months in case critics
In a move raising concerns about political interference in Hong Kong’s judiciary, a court on Wednesday sentenced 64-year-old Tang Wai-ching, the sister of veteran labour activist Tang Ngok-kwan, to six months in prison for her participation in a 2020 anti-government protest. The verdict has sparked outrage among pro-democracy groups and human rights advocates, who view it as a targeted attack on dissent and a chilling signal for freedom of expression in the former British colony.
Tang Wai-ching, a retired restaurant worker, was arrested in January 2021 along with hundreds of others for allegedly participating in an unauthorized assembly during a large-scale protest on 31 October 2020. The demonstration, one of many that rocked Hong Kong in 2019 and 2020, was against the Beijing-backed government’s proposed national security law and its erosion of civil liberties in the territory.
While the prosecution acknowledged that Tang Wai-ching did not engage in any violent acts or vandalism, they argued that her mere presence at the protest was sufficient to constitute a crime under the colonial-era Public Order Ordinance. The defense, however, countered that Tang Wai-ching was simply caught up in the crowd and posed no threat to public safety.
The presiding judge, Wong Sze-lai, ultimately sided with the prosecution, finding Tang Wai-ching guilty of unlawful assembly and sentencing her to six months in prison. In his reasoning, Judge Wong stated that even peaceful participation in unauthorized protests could undermine public order and social stability.
The verdict has been met with swift condemnation from pro-democracy figures and human rights organizations. The Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, where Tang Ngok-kwan serves as vice-president, called the sentence “outrageous and politically motivated.” They argued that the case was an attempt to silence dissent and intimidate activists critical of the government.
Human Rights Watch echoed this sentiment, stating that the sentencing “smacks of political persecution” and is part of a wider crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. They urged the international community to closely monitor the situation and hold the Chinese and Hong Kong authorities accountable for their actions.
The case of Tang Wai-ching comes amidst heightened concerns about the erosion of judicial independence in Hong Kong. Since the implementation of the national security law in 2020, authorities have arrested over 2,000 people, many of whom were pro-democracy activists, journalists, and academics. Critics argue that the law has been used to stifle dissent and silence criticism of the government.
The sentencing of Tang Wai-ching is likely to further raise concerns about the state of human rights and judicial independence in Hong Kong. It remains to be seen whether the international community will take any concrete action to address these concerns and hold the authorities accountable for their actions.
Tang Wai-ching, sister of labour activist Tang Ngok-kwan, sentenced to 6 months in prison for unlawful assembly during 2020 protest. Verdict seen as politically motivated and part of wider crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong. This also aises concerns about erosion of judicial independence and human rights in the territory. Pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations call for international intervention.