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Tiananmen anniversary: Hong Kong park empty for first time in 32 years as democracy vigil leader arrested

A Hong Kong park traditionally hosting massive vigils on the anniversary of China’s deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown lay empty for the first time late Friday as police blocked access. However, flashes of defiance still flickered across the city. Huge crowds have routinely gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to mark the anniversary of Chinese troops crushing peaceful democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

Hundreds were killed in the crackdown; by some estimates, more than 1,000.

Public commemorations are forbidden on the mainland and, until recently, semi-autonomous Hong Kong was the one place in China where large-scale remembrance was still tolerated.

This year’s vigil was banned at a time when authorities are carrying out a sweeping clampdown on dissent following massive and often violent democracy protests two years ago.

Hong Kong park

Police threw cordons around Victoria Park, keeping crowds out and leaving the venue free of candle-carrying mourners for the first time in 32 years.

Activists who approached the park were stopped and searched while officers used loud hailers and signs to call for people to disperse from nearby streets.

Some officers displayed signs warning chanting crowds that they were in breach of a sweeping new national security law Beijing imposed on the city last year to stamp dissent.

Early on Friday, police arrested Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, for promoting an unauthorized assembly. Hours later, officers cordoned off most of the downtown park.

“She only wanted to go to Victoria Park, light a candle and commemorate,” Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Alliance, told Reuters, adding he believed her arrest was meant to strike fear into those planning to attend the vigil. Police, which banned the watch for the second year in a row, citing the coronavirus, said there were still social media calls for people to rally despite the ban and warned of more arrests.

“From the bottom of my heart, I must say I believe Hong Kong is still a very safe and free city,” senior superintendent Liauw Ka-kei told reporters, adding that police had no option but to enforce the law.

Participants light candles during a vigil for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2020.

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Before he would wouldrest, Ms. Chow told Reuters this week couldotcould note 4 was a test for Hong Kong “of whether we can defend our bottom line of morality”. As long as they haven’t said candles are illegal, we will light a candle,” she said. Her Facebook page said Ms. Chow will mark the anniversary by fasting if she cannot light a candle due to her arrest. The Alliance’s chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, is in jail for an illegal assembly.

Molly Aronson

I'm an award-winning blogger who enjoys all things creative but is especially passionate about lifestyle design. I blog over at mehlogy.com I love that I get to share my passion for healthy living, fashion, fitness, and travel with readers from all over the world.

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