Jailed over 2019 protests, candlelight vigil organizer fears possible cooked-up ‘national security’ charges

Published (HKT): 2021.04.20 06:20

Former lawmaker and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan is worried that he could face new, cooked-up charges under the national security law while serving his 14-month jail term for unauthorized assembly, he said in an interview aired on Monday.

Lee was sentenced to jail by a Hong Kong court last week for unauthorized assembly, arising from two protests against the now-withdrawn extradition bill in August 2019. The 64-year-old chairs the activist group that organizes the annual June 4 candlelight vigil to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

Before going to prison, Lee took part in a talk show with his long-time ally, unionist Mung Siu-tat, which was aired by online radio station D100 on Monday.

Lee said he felt generally calm about facing criminal liability for his participation in the 2019 protests. But he does worry about the possibility of the Hong Kong government cooking up new charges against him under the national security law.

“All my speeches are open to the public. [Officials] can easily use them to their advantage,” Lee said. “They can interpret the national security law in any way they like. They can add new stuff to my case anytime.”

The veteran unionist said he would spend his time behind bars refreshing his mind and thoughts by reading and writing.

Lee will miss the annual candlelight vigil this year. The organizers are facing enormous government pressure not to stage the event, but will insist on holding it at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, he said.

Even if officials’ fear-mongering deters some Hongkongers from taking part, they can still light a candle in commemoration at any other location that day, Lee said.

Lee joined the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing and was detained there briefly by mainland authorities. Looking back, Lee said the 1989 demonstrations were the reason why he had dedicated his whole life to the democratic movement.

It is difficult to know when Hong Kong will see the end of its darkest days under Beijing’s heavy-handed repression, but history is often unpredictable, and he will carry on with what he has been doing, Lee said.

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