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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Hong Kong slams South Korean rights group over award for jailed activist

Hong Kong slams South Korean rights group over award for jailed activist

Chow Hang-tung, figure behind annual candlelight vigil of June 4 crackdown in Beijing, named winner of this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

Hong Kong authorities have slammed a South Korean rights group for awarding a prize to jailed activist Chow Hang-tung, saying the move intended to “flagrantly glorify” illegal acts and interfere in the city’s affairs.

The government also reiterated that Hong Kong upheld the rule of law and all offenders would be held responsible.

The accusations were made after the May 18 Foundation, which is based in South Korea, reportedly ignored China’s opposition and chose Chow as the winner of this year’s Gwangju Prize for Human Rights.

She became the first activist from Hong Kong to receive the award since it was established in 2000. Many of the previous winners were from Southeast Asia.

“As a human rights lawyer, Chow Hang-tung has tirelessly challenged the government’s unjust and unfair treatment of human rights defenders. Even now, as a prisoner of conscience, she continues to struggle against the system that oppresses the people of Hong Kong.

“By awarding Chow … we hope to convey to the Hong Kong government and the people of Hong Kong the solidarity of the international community by supporting democracy and standing for human rights in Hong Kong,” the foundation’s announcement read.

According to South Korean media, Chinese officials asked the foundation to reconsider its plan to present the award to Chow, claiming she was a “criminal who took part in a violent protest that inflicted damage on China”.

Chow Hang-tung after being detained in 2021.

The request was rejected, the report said.

In a reply to the Post, a Hong Kong Security Bureau spokesman said: “We strongly object to any measures taken by external forces to flagrantly glorify the illegal acts of any person or to interfere in the affairs of [Hong Kong].

“It must be pointed out that Hong Kong is governed by the rule of law where laws must be observed and lawbreakers held to account.”

The spokesman said that no one was “above the law” and that all enforcement actions were based on evidence and made according to legislation.

Chow is a key figure of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the group behind the annual June 4 vigil marking the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The group disbanded in 2021 after authorities arrested several senior members, including Chow, on national security-related charges.

Last year, Chow won an appeal against her conviction and 15-month prison term over a banned vigil in 2021. The justice secretary has applied to the Court of Final Appeal for leave to appeal. The application was expected to be handled on June 8.

Chow, along with the alliance’s former chairman Lee Cheuk-yan and vice-chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan, were separately charged with inciting subversion of state power under the Beijing-imposed national security law.

The May 18 Foundation was established to commemorate the Gwangju Uprising – the massive protests against the country’s then military government in the southern South Korean city in May 1980.

The protests were eventually suppressed. But it was considered to have been a pivotal moment in the country’s struggle for democracy.

The prize was established to mark the spirit of the Korean movement for democracy and honour those who fight for human rights and peace, according to the foundation.

A representative was expected to receive the award on Chow’s behalf at the ceremony to be held on May 18. The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights carries a cash award of US$50,000.


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