By Jessie Pang HONG KONG (Reuters) – Twenty-four activists appeared before a Hong Kong court on Friday on charges related to a vigil on June 4 last year marking the anniversary of China’s military crackdown on protesters a pro-democracy in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. 1989. Hong Kong traditionally celebrates the world’s largest vigil each year, although it was banned in 2020, and authorities gave the risk of spreading the coronavirus as a reason. Vigils have always been banned in mainland China. But thousands of Hong Kong residents defied the ban and took to the streets to organize candlelight demonstrations in the former British colony, promised extensive freedoms when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997, including rights to expression and reunion. Those released from prison to attend the court hearing were media mogul and staunch critic of Beijing Jimmy Lai, 73, and prominent democracy activist Joshua Wong, 24. Lai is in custody pending from a bail hearing after becoming the most prominent person in the city charged under a controversial national security law. Wong is serving more than 13 months in connection with an illegal anti-government demonstration in 2019. Five of the group, including Wong, indicated that they planned to plead guilty to charges related to the illegal gathering and their case was postponed until April 30. They were expected to plead not guilty and their case was postponed to June 11. Outside court, more than a dozen supporters shouted slogans and held up signs that read “Against political repression” and “Innocent to cry on June 4.” The anniversary of June 4 last year came almost four weeks before Beijing imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that Western governments and human rights groups have widely condemned as a tool to crush freedoms downtown. world financial. The Chinese and Hong Kong authorities reject that, saying the legislation was necessary to restore stability after a year of sometimes violent demonstrations against China and the government. China has never provided a full account of the 1989 violence. The death toll given by officials days later was about 300, most of them soldiers, but human rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people may have died.
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