Several pro-democracy figures were detained by the Hong Kong police while attempting to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China.
For several years, residents of Hong Kong would assemble at Victoria Park and its adjacent locality to observe the incidents of June 4, 1989, by participating in candlelight vigils. After Beijing’s enforcement of the national security law in Hong Kong in 2020 to suppress opposition, the customary yearly vigil has been prohibited, and the event coordinators have been prosecuted under the abovementioned law.
Over the weekend, a significant number of law enforcement officers were dispatched to the vicinity to conduct searches of individuals’ possessions and conduct interrogations.
In the late afternoon, witnesses observed at least ten individuals apprehended by law enforcement officials and transported in police vans. Among those detained was Chan Po-Ying, who serves as the head of the League of Social Democrats in the city. This organization is one of the few remaining opposition groups. The individual, identified as a veteran activist, had a small LED candle and two flowers when law enforcement officials promptly apprehended her.
Several notable individuals were apprehended, including Alexandra Wong, a renowned activist who goes by the moniker Grandma Wong; Mak Yin-ting, a former chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalists Association; and Leo Tang, a previous head of the now-defunct Confederation of Trade Unions. At the time of the police intervention, Wong, who is 67, had flowers. She was subsequently surrounded by law enforcement officials and escorted from the area.
On Saturday, law enforcement officials apprehended four individuals for “seditious” behavior and “disorderly conduct.” Another four individuals were also taken into custody for suspected disturbance of public order.
In the late afternoon of Sunday, law enforcement officials established a tent within the bustling shopping district. This location was utilized to conduct interviews with individuals discreetly, away from the public’s direct line of sight.
The topic of the Tiananmen crackdown is considered to be extremely sensitive for the communist leadership of China, and any form of commemoration is strictly prohibited within the mainland.
In 1989, the government deployed troops and tanks to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to disperse peaceful protests. This action resulted in the forceful suppression of a series of demonstrations that had been ongoing for several weeks and had been advocating for political reform. According to certain approximations, over 1,000 individuals lost their lives, with the actual number potentially reaching the hundreds.
Hong Kong has been the only Chinese city to hold a significant commemoration for several decades. This is a crucial indicator of the freedoms and political diversity its semi-autonomous position grants. Following the prohibition of the vigil in 2020, the park was secured with metal barricades.
Victoria Park transformed this year to host a ‘home town funfair’ organized by pro-Beijing groups. The event commemorated the upcoming 26th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China and began on Saturday.
The Chinese government has made significant efforts to eliminate any public recollection of the 1989 incident within mainland China. References to the crackdown have been deleted from the internet in China.
On Sunday, law enforcement personnel were deployed near Tiananmen Square, intermittently obstructing bicyclists. During the weekend, areas where recent protests had taken place, such as a bridge in Beijing where a banner with the word “Freedom” was displayed and Wulumuqi Road in Shanghai, where demonstrations occurred in November, experienced increased security measures.
The June 4, 1989, front page of China’s state-run newspaper, People’s Daily, was shared by the British embassy in Beijing. The newspaper contained a brief report stating that hospitals were overwhelmed with injured individuals. On Sunday, the embassy tweeted that censors removed the news within 20 minutes.
Hong Kong authorities demonstrated high vigilance in the weeks leading up to June 4. This was evidenced by the police’s confiscation of a commemorative statue known as the “Pillar of Shame” for a security trial and the removal of books related to the Tiananmen crackdown from public libraries.
Last week, Debby Chan, a former district councilor who supports democracy, reported that the police contacted her regarding her plans for June 4. This was after she made a Facebook post announcing her intention to distribute free candles commonly associated with vigils.
On Sunday, various instances of non-compliance were observed in different parts of Hong Kong. One shop distributed candles, while a bookstore exhibited archival material related to Tiananmen Square.
The leader of Hong Kong, John Lee, refrained from addressing inquiries regarding the permissibility of public mourning. He emphasized that the public must adhere to the law and be prepared to face the repercussions otherwise.
Numerous vigils have been scheduled globally, spanning from Japan to London. In Trafalgar Square on Sunday, a re-enactment of the Tiananmen crackdown is set to occur.