The Slatest

Hong Kong Bans Annual Tiananmen Vigil, Threatens Arrest for Attendees

A view from above as people hold candles at night as they take part in the vigil at Victoria Park.
People hold candles as they take part in the vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2019 in Hong Kong, China. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

Hong Kong authorities deployed thousands of police Friday to enforce a ban in the city on commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China. Police arrested an organizer of the yearly vigil, which until last year drew tens of thousands of demonstrators, in yet another display of China’s growing control over the former British colony. For the past three decades, thousands of people in Hong Kong would make a yearly pilgrimage on June 4 to the city’s Victoria Park to commemorate the anniversary of the pro-democracy protests organized by Chinese students in Tiananmen Square that led to the Chinese government sending troops to disperse the gathering, opening fire on protesters, and killing thousands.

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The annual Hong Kong remembrance has doubled as a pro-democracy movement in the city and continued even after the handover of the former British colony back to China in 1997 under the “one country, two systems” principle that enshrined the city’s autonomy until 2047. Over the past several years, however, Beijing has taken dramatic steps to rein in Hong Kong, prompting widespread protests on the streets of the city in 2019. Beijing’s once creeping influence in Hong Kong crystallized with a National Security Law passed on June 30, 2020 that essentially treated Hong Kong residents like the rest of China.

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Photos of the Hong Kong Tiananmen vigil at Victoria Park over the years.
Photos of the Hong Kong Tiananmen vigil at Victoria Park over the years: (top row L-R) June 4, 1990, June 4, 1999, June 4, 2004, (middle row L-R) June 4, 2011, June 4, 2015, June 4, 2018, (bottom row L-R) June 4, 2019, June 4, 2020 and June 4, 2021 MIKE FIALA/Getty Images

Last June, the Hong Kong Tiananmen event was banned for the first time under the pretense of the pandemic, but several thousand still attended. This year’s event, however, is the first to fall under the new, draconian national security provisions that stifle many of the freedoms that the city had maintained, including free speech and the ability to protest.

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Hong Kong’s Security Bureau issued a ban on any June 4 gathering, declaring that “relevant meetings and procession are unauthorized assemblies” and that “taking part in an unauthorized assembly is liable to a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment; advertising or publicizing an unauthorized assembly is liable to a maximum penalty of 12 months’ imprisonment.” Police confirmed the arrest of activist Chow Hang Tung, one of the event’s organizers, for promoting what an unauthorized event. A 20-year-old food delivery man was also arrested for publicizing the event on social media.

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