For the second year in a row, demonstrators gathered in Hong Kong to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre despite police banning the annual vigil.
Police on Friday in the semi-autonomous city shut down large portions of Victoria Park — which in the past attracted hundreds of thousands on the anniversary of the massacre — citing coronavirus restrictions although there have been no cases in the city for more than six weeks, according to The Associated Press (AP).
Hong Kong police earlier on Friday also arrested two people they accused of using social media to promote the vigil. Chow Hang Tung, a senior member of the Hong Kong Alliance, was among those arrested.
Hong Kong today vs 2019 on June 4, the anniversary of Tiananmen Square pic.twitter.com/SUDS4r5vu8
— AntifaBook.com (@JackPosobiec) June 4, 2021
Despite the ban and police presence, hundreds of people still showed up to walk around the perimeter of the park, lighting candles and flashlights on their cellphones, in remembrance of when the Chinese government cracked down on student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square, leading to hundreds of thousands killed on June 4, 1989.
Tens of thousands gathered last year in the same spot to commemorate June 4 despite a similar ban.
Hong Kong time 20:00, traditionally the time when the #June4 candlelight vigil started at Victoria Park: At least dozens switching on the light of their mobile phones at the gate of the now-sealed off venue. The light hasn’t been extinguished.#HongKong #TiananmenVigil pic.twitter.com/a5yovkl0lN
— Phoebe Kong (@phoebe_kongwy) June 4, 2021
The Tiananmen vigil has long been a powerful symbol of Hong Kong’s independence from the Chinese government, drawing thousands of mourners who sang songs, lit candles, and listened to powerful speeches denouncing China’s communist ruling party.
Last year, Beijing officially revoked Hong Kong’s autonomy, imposing national security laws on the city, arresting pro-democracy leaders, and quelling any dissent of the ruling party.
China had pledged to keep Hong Kong’s capitalist system and way of life unchanged for 50 years under the “one country, two systems” principle agreed upon with the U.K. in 1997, which handed the city back to Beijing after more than a century of colonial rule.
The encroachment of China’s rule on the city, which began after the Hong Kong legislature proposed an extradition law in 2019, led to mass protests in the city that at times attracted as many as two million people.
Live look at the protests in Hong Kong
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 15, 2019
The Chinese government has also spent decades attempting to whitewash their role in the massacre, including using mass censorship campaigns to prevent discussions of Tiananmen in their country to suppress the public’s memory.
Many U.S. lawmakers issued statements of their own commemorating Tiananmen on its 32nd anniversary, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who said “It’s inspiring to see people in Hong Kong commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre despite efforts by Beijing and Hong Kong authorities to silence their voices.”