Hong Kong (AFP)
Hong Kong police on Thursday banned next month’s vigil marking the deadly crackdown on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the second year in a row that authorities have refused permission.
The Hong Kong Alliance, which has held the annual vigil for more than three decades, said police cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in their denial.
“We will continue to fight for the right to legally cry on June 4,” the alliance said, adding that it planned to appeal.
Security Minister John Lee confirmed the ban, saying “whoever takes part in it (the vigil) will break the law,” and warned that a sweeping new national security law Beijing has imposed on Hong Kong last year could be used against those who defy the ban.
“The National Security Law clearly states that if anyone organizes, plans or implements illegal means to damage or overthrow the fundamental system of the Chinese constitution, it would constitute a subversion of state power,” a- he told reporters.
Hong Kong has regularly marked the anniversary of Beijing’s murderous crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests on June 4, 1989 with massive candlelight vigils.
Crowds have grown in recent years as many residents fret under Beijing’s increasingly authoritarian rule.
– Fading freedom –
Last year’s event was banned for the first time, with police citing the coronavirus pandemic and security fears following huge and often violent democracy protests that rocked Hong Kong’s last year.
Tens of thousands of people defied the ban and gathered peacefully at the traditional vigil site in Victoria Park.
Since then, prosecutors have brought “illegal assembly” charges against more than two dozen prominent Democratic activists who showed up at the vigil, some of whom have already been jailed.
Among them are Joshua Wong, Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen and Janelle Leung – all young activists sentenced to prison terms last month for attending the vigil.
Hong Kong currently bans more than four people from assembling in public under anti-coronavirus measures, making it nearly impossible to get permission to protest.
The city has kept infections low, but has seen multiple waves of the disease erupt.
In the past month, the financial center has only registered three local infections, the sources of which are unknown.
It is not known whether Hong Kong people will risk taking to the streets for next Friday’s birthday.
Beijing imposed the National Security Law on Hong Kong just weeks after last year’s rally, and it has transformed the city’s once-free political landscape.
More than 100 pro-democracy figures have been arrested under the new law, mainly for political opinions and speeches.
Most are denied bail and face life in prison if found guilty.
The denial of the Tiananmen Vigil in Hong Kong comes two days after police in neighboring Macau also banned June 4 rallies, saying the event “would incite subversion.”
This is the first time that the authorities have clearly explained a political reason for banning the memory of an event that has been largely purged from collective memory on the continent.
Legal analysts say popular chants heard at previous Tiananmen rallies such as “End Party Rule” and “Bring Democracy to China” could be considered illegal under the Security Law.
Chinese tanks and troops were dispatched to quell weeks of student-led democracy protests on June 4, 1989.
Estimates of the number of fatalities range from a few hundred to a few thousand.
© 2021 AFP