Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong defied law enforcement by gathering for a mass vigil Thursday in order to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.
The gathering took place in the city’s Victoria Park, where demonstrators shouted anti-communist slogans and lit candles in remembrance of the pro-democracy protestors, mostly students, who were killed by the Chinese military June 4, 1989 during demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, BBC News reported. Smaller gatherings took place across Hong Kong as well.
Hong Kong police banned the vigil Monday, citing health concerns due to the coronavirus, although growing tensions between China and Hong Kong have cast a shadow on the future of the vigil, which has been held annually for 30 years.
Hong Kong has experienced massive protests for over a year, with the most recent demonstrations focusing on security laws and a ban on criticism of the Chinese national anthem. (RELATED: The Hong Kong Security Law Would Suppress Criticism Of China As Beijing Buys Global Silence)
More than 3,000 riot officers were deployed Thursday to enforce the vigil’s ban and coronavirus restrictions, which limit public gatherings to eight people or less. A large police presence was seen in Mong Kok district, where hundreds of protestors scuffled with police and knocked over barriers that were set up around public spaces, according to the South China Morning Post.
For many of the people who gathered for the candlelight vigils, the demonstrations held new meaning due to China’s recent encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. “I’ve come here for the vigil for 30 years in memory of the victims of the June 4 crackdown, but this year it is more significant to me,” a 74-year-old man named Yip told AFP News Agency.
In Mong Kok district, where protestors were pepper-sprayed by police, 24-year-old Brenda Hui was seen holding an umbrella with the words “Never Forget June 4” written on it, Reuters reported. “We are afraid this will be the last time we can have a ceremony but Hong Kongers will always remember what happened on June 4,” she said.