Hong Kongers defy ban, attend vigil marking Tiananmen Square anniversary

The annual vigil was denied permission due to COVID-19, but protesters turned up away

hk-protest Lee Cheuk-yan, the chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, takes part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, at Victoria Park, in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020 | REUTERS

Thousands of Hong Kongers are holding candlelit gatherings in the area around Victoria Park as they mark an annual vigil in honour of the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, in defiance of police orders banning the vigil on account of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The BBC reported that, while police set up barricades around Victoria Park, protesters knocked them down and held their vigil.

The vigil has special significance, as it takes place on the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It is feared that the looming imposition of national security laws by China could make illegal activities that threaten national security.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong tweeted saying, “This year might be the last year of annual #TiananmenVigil in #Hongkong.”

“31 years ago, Beijing crushed dissents with tanks and guns. 31 years later, Beijing is ripping out our democratic aspiration with a tyrannical law,” he said.

The move comes on the same day that the city’s Legislative Council approved a bill that makes it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem, ‘March of the Volunteers”. The bill was approved after a dramatic incident in the legislature, where two legislators—Eddie Chu Hoi-dick and Raymond Chan Chi—threw a foul-smelling liquid on the ground during the debate over the bill, temporarily suspending the debate and prompting police and firefighters to enter the chamber.

According to SCMP, the liquid contained dead insects, but no poisonous gas was detected by the firefighters and police officers.

The bill allows for punishment of those who insult the anthem a fine of up to $50,000 Hong Kong dollars (Rs 4.87 lakh) and up to three years imprisonment.

While the pro-democracy camp sees the anthem bill as an infringement of freedom of expression and the greater rights that residents of the semi-autonomous city have compared to mainland China, the pro-Beijing majority said the law was necessary for Hong Kong citizens to show appropriate respect for the anthem.

The Secretary for Contitutional and Mainland Affairs, Erick Tsang Kwok-wai, said the principle behind the bill was to have people respect China. “Only when people respect our country is it meaningful to talk about ‘two systems’. Without respect, it is groundless to talk about ‘one country, two systems’,” he said.