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Hong Kong tightens security to enforce Tiananmen vigil ban

June 4, 2022

For the third year in a row, Hong Kong has banned publicly honoring the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Even subtle acts of commemoration were a "risky" undertaking, says DW's reporter in the city.

China I Hongkong I Tiananmen
Image: Kin Cheung/AP/picture alliance

Hong Kong's Victoria Park saw a heavy police presence on Saturday as authorities banned any public commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The park was traditionally the venue for a candlelight vigil honoring hundreds, if not thousands, of student protesters killed by troops in Beijing in 1989. 

Hong Kong was one of few places in China where such vigils were allowed to be held.

But the event was banned Saturday for the third year in a row, due to the COVID pandemic and the introduction of the controversial national security law. 

The vigil organizers were forced to disband last year following the arrests of their leaders. Police detained them on suspicion of violating the national security law, which was imposed after pro-democracy protests in 2019. 

The vigil ban and the arrests of its organizers are seen as efforts by Beijing to tighten its grip over the semi-autonomous city.

'It's really difficult for Hong Kongers to continue Tiananmen remembrance': DW's Phoebe Kong reports (04.06.2022)

What happened in Hong Kong on the Tiananmen anniversary?

DW' Hong Kong correspondent Phoebe Kong, reporting from outside Victoria Park, said there was a "sense of fear looming [over] the city." 

"It is becoming one of the most sensitive political taboos in Hong Kong," she said. 

Hundreds of police were guarding the park, which they had closed the night before to prevent any unofficial gatherings. 

The tension has forced commemorations to become "more subtle," she said, with some people going to the park with white flowers to show their respect to the victims. "But it was still a risky action" as police ordered them to leave or face possible arrest, she added. 

"The police were really trying hard to stifle any form of action to mourn the Tiananmen crackdown."

Multiple activists, mainly from the League of Social Democrats (LSD) party, were also "taken away" by police as they were approaching the park, according to reporters on the scene. 

Police also questioned a woman who was handing out blank papers. 

"For 33 years it has always been peaceful, but today it's like [police] are facing a big enemy," Chan Po-ying, head of the LSD, said. 

"The candlelight will not go out; the hearts of people will live on." 

China: Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary

Tiananmen commemorations in Taiwan

Meanwhile in Taiwan, the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, some 2,000 people attended a ceremony to commemorate the Tiananmen victims. 

The gathering in the capital Taipei was organized by activists and Hongkongers living in Taiwan.

They unveiled a new Pillar of Shame statue on Liberty Square in downtown Taipei. The artwork protesting the 1989 crackdown was taken down in Hong Kong last year

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen decried the "collective memory of June 4 being systematically erased in Hong Kong."

"But we believe that such brute force cannot erase people's memories," she posted on social media. 

fb/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)