Annual vigil for Tiananmen crackdown banned again in Hong Kong and Macau

A file photo taken on June 4, 2020, shows people lighting candles during a remembrance to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, at Hong Kong's Victoria Park.
A file photo taken on June 4, 2020, shows people lighting candles during a remembrance to mark the Tiananmen Square crackdown, at Hong Kong's Victoria Park.PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG - The city's authorities have, for the second year in a row, banned what used to be an annual candlelight vigil commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, shortly after Macau made a similar move.

The Hong Kong police on Thursday (May 27) issued a letter of objection, on public health security grounds, to the organiser's request to hold the traditional memorial at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay on June 4, as well as a march on May 30.

The organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, is appealing against the decision.

In Macau, the vigil was also banned for the second year. The authorities cited national security reasons and the ongoing pandemic.

Activists on Tuesday posted police documents online in which it was stated that slogans and information displayed at previous Tiananmen photo exhibitions and vigils "defame and slander the central government, incite subversion and disturb the harmony in society".

At a meeting on Tuesday, the Hong Kong police asked the organisers about their past activities and goals, including the demand for an end to one-party rule on the mainland.

In recent weeks, a number of pro-Beijing figures have said that the vigil could breach the national security law, although the government has not publicly stated its position.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only places under Chinese jurisdiction that allow such massive protests where participants openly denounce the government in Beijing, demand reform and mark the Tiananmen crackdown by the People's Liberation Army.

Interest in the commemoration events appeared to have dwindled, though, recently, especially in Hong Kong, as younger residents became disillusioned, particularly after the 2014 Occupy Central protests that brought the city's central district to a standstill.

Interest in the commemoration events dwindled as younger residents became disillusioned after the 2014 Occupy Central protests.

Differences between the organisers and pro-democracy student leaders, who said they held different views on China, were also a factor.

In 2020, the authorities banned the memorial on public health safety grounds, the first time this has occurred in the city in 30 years.

Still, thousands defied the ban to gather in Victoria Park.

Subsequently, 24 pro-democracy figures were charged with participating in and inciting others to participate in the unauthorised assembly.

Four were handed jail terms after pleading guilty in early May, including activist Joshua Wong who is now serving time. Others are awaiting sentencing.