A Hong Kong court has jailed a mainland Chinese student for six months for sedition over a plan to display a large image of a sculpture created to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.
He highlighted the involvement of Danish artist Jens Galschiøt and former Tiananmen student leader Zhou Fengsou in the offence.
Law said they had given Zeng the lithograph print, which could provoke hatred of the Chinese government.
The magistrate added Zhou, now based in the United States, had also played a substantial role through the use of social media to try and draw attention to the defendant’s arrest and prosecution.
The giant banner, emblazoned with an image of the eight metre sculpture, said the 1989 crackdown was a “massacre” and that “the old cannot kill the young forever”, a statement which also appeared on the sculpture.
Magistrate Law said the words used were sharp criticisms of the authorities and capable of stirring up anger.
He added the case was more serious than an ordinary member of the public writing provocative messages online, as the banner’s display, even temporarily, could generate more impact because of Galschiøt’s reputation and international influence.
“The defendant in the present case was definitely not acting alone. Her personal influence might be small, but she was a participant in an international campaign … the impact of which was not limited by geographical constraints,” Law said.
The court took into account Zeng’s high level of premeditation, including a plan to move into a nearby hotel before the banner was unfurled and pretend to be a tourist if confronted by police.
But the magistrate accepted the defence’s submission that the banner was unlikely to galvanise people into taking radical action.
He reduced Zeng’s nine-month sentence by a third to reflect her early guilty plea.
Zeng at first faced a second count of sedition over an alleged public display of mourning for a man behind a 2021 knife attack on a police officer, but the prosecution dropped the charge after she pleaded guilty to the banner offence.
Her prosecution in June was widely reported on social media.
Zhou published a series of posts that said he would bear responsibility and praised Zeng’s display of “unwavering courage” in the face of “tyranny”.
The Pillar of Shame had stood in the University of Hong Kong’s Pok Fu Lam campus since 1997 and regularly featured in the city’s Tiananmen Square commemorations.
The Victoria Park park vigil was banned by police in 2020 and 2021 on the grounds of public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.