Hong Kong police banned organizers from hosting a vigil in memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown Monday, an annual event that has taken place in Hong Kong for the past 30 years.
Authorities cited health concerns over the coronavirus, although some in Hong Kong fear that the vigil may come to a permanent end.
The Tiananmen Square vigil is a large event in Hong Kong, and organizers stated that nearly 180,000 people had gathered in the city’s Victoria Park for the vigil in 2019, BBC News reported. The vigil honors pro-democracy protestors who were killed by the Chinese military during mass demonstrations that took place June 4, 1989, in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Information about the crackdown is heavily censored in mainland China, and Chinese hackers have even engaged in cyber-attacks against American groups for hosting remembrance events. Hong Kong and Macau are the only territories in China where people can commemorate the deadly event, although public commemorations must be authorized by local law enforcement, BBC reports.
Hong Kong authorities are currently enforcing social restrictions due to the coronavirus, which includes limiting group gatherings to eight people or less, according to Reuters. However, there are broader concerns that the decision to ban the vigil this year is the result of China’s growing political influence in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has experienced protests for over a year, and at its peak nearly 2 million people took to the streets in protest of a 2019 extradition bill. Recent protests have largely centered on new laws passed by China last week that would undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy on security and law enforcement issues.
Pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong have cited the vigil ban as evidence of “political suppression” and an attack on the “one country, two systems” principle, which protects Hong Kong’s autonomy. (RELATED: Pompeo Declares Hong Kong ‘No Longer Autonomous From China’ After Communist Crackdown)
Such statements also echo larger concerns about China, whose recent actions may alter the city’s status as an autonomous region with a relatively independent political and economic system. It remains unclear if the Tiananmen Square vigil will be allowed in Hong Kong in future years, BBC reports.