Hong Kong protesters defy police ban and hold vigil for Tiananmen Square victims

4 June 2020, 19:25

Tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong for the vigil, defying a ban
Tens of thousands gathered in Hong Kong for the vigil, defying a ban. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong defied a police ban to hold a candlelit vigil on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Pro-democracy campaigners and ordinary citizens took to the city's streets to commemorate this day, 4 June, in 1989 when China crushed a democracy movement at Beijing's iconic landmark square.

Demonstrators broke through barriers and poured into Hong Kong's Victoria Park to light candles and observe a minute of silence.

China has shifted its attention on to the semi-autonomous region in the past couple of years by cracking down on the city following months of anti-government protests last year, which has led to the erosion of rights and liberties of the city and its citizens.

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For the first time this year, authorities banned the annual vigil for victims of the Tiananmen Square protests that took place more than three decades ago, citing coronavirus as the reason.

Many chanted "Democracy now" as well as "Stand for freedom, stand with Hong Kong".

Earlier on Thursday, Hong Kong's legislature passed a law making it a crime to disrespect China's national anthem.

The move came after pro-democracy lawmakers disrupted the proceedings twice by trying to prevent the vote.

Prior to the vigil, police played recordings warning participants not to attend the unauthorised gathering, however that did little to prevent people from entering the park.

Authorities had cited the need for social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak in barricading the sprawling park, but activists believed that was a convenient government excuse.

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Protesters held signs saying "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution Of Our Times"
Protesters held signs saying "Liberate Hong Kong" and "Revolution Of Our Times". Picture: PA
One candle was seen burning on a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping
One candle was seen burning on a picture of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: PA

In the Mongkok district in Kowloon, large crowds also gathered to commemorate the anniversary.

However, when several people tried to barricade a road, police rushed to detain them, using pepper spray and raising a blue flag to warn them to disperse before they would begin to use force.

On Twitter, Hong Kong police said that "some black-clad protesters are blocking roads in Mongkok. ... Police officers are now making arrests."

They urged people not to gather in groups because of Covid-19.

Tens of thousands of pro-democracy campaigners gathered at Victoria Park in Hong Kong
Tens of thousands of pro-democracy campaigners gathered at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. Picture: PA
Participants gesture with five fingers, signifying the "Five demands - not one less"
Participants gesture with five fingers, signifying the "Five demands - not one less". Picture: PA

In a separate Facebook post, police said the situation in Mongkok was dangerous and chaotic, and that it used the "minimum required force" in response.

After the vigil in Victoria Park, groups of protesters dressed in black carried flags that said "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times" as well as "Hong Kong Independence".

"We all know the Hong Kong government and the Chinese government really don't want to see the candle lights in Victoria Park," said Wu'er Kaixi, a former student leader who was number two on the government's most-wanted list following the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when tanks and troops moved in on the night of June 3-4, 1989, to break up weeks of student-led protests that had spread to other cities and were seen as a threat to Communist Party rule.

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