Hong Kong commemorates Tiananmen dead with vigil

Despite police ban, thousands light candles across the city

Thousands defied a police ban to gather with candles in Hong Kong on Thursday to mark China’s bloody Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown in 1989 and accuse Beijing of stifling freedoms too on their semi-autonomous territory.

Meeting in the city’s Victoria Park, some chanted slogans such as “End one party rule” and “Democracy for China now” as they skirted an unprecedented prohibition on the annual vigil justified by police due to the coronavirus crisis.

“We are just remembering those who died on June 4, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it’s over it’s ‘sayonara’ (goodbye),” said Kitty, a 70-year-old housewife.

National anthem Bill

The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in the former British-ruled city this year after China’s move last month to impose national security legislation. On Thursday, Hong Kong passed a Bill that would criminalise disrespect of China’s national anthem, a move critics see as the latest sign of Beijing’s tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.

It also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials voice support for protests in the U.S. against police brutality. The crackdown is not officially commemorated in mainland China, where the topic is taboo and discussion censored.

In Hong Kong, which just reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in weeks, police had said a mass gathering would undermine public health. But several thousand made it to Victoria Park where they held a minute of silence.

Elsewhere around the city, Hong Kong residents took to the streets and also lit candles in other peaceful rallies.

“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,” said Brenda Hui, 24, in the working class district of Mong Kok, where she and a friend stood with a white battery-illuminated umbrella that read “Never Forget June 4.”

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