Annual Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong continues as police decline to enforce gathering ban

Domestic News

Thousands in Hong Kong attended the annual vigil today memorializing the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Prior to the vigil, the police had announced a ban on public gatherings due to COVID-19, but in the end they did not enforce that ban.

Hongkongers defy a police ban on large gatherings to gather en masse in Victoria Square, while observing social distancing, to mark the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on June 4, 2020. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu.

Thousands in Hong Kong attended the annual vigil today memorializing the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. There had been some question as to whether the vigil would happen this year, as the police had earlier announced a ban on public gatherings due to COVID-19, but in the end they did not enforce that ban.

“Attendees clambered over barriers to take part” in the technically illegal assembly, the Hong Kong Free Press reports. However, a source told the South China Morning Post that the police acted with restraint because they “understand that the June 4 commemoration is a symbolic and historical event, and it has been peaceful in the past.” There were only very limited clashes between protesters and police in Mong Kok, and “at least four” people were arrested.

For more on the Tiananmen vigil, see:

The vigil happened in extraordinary times in Hong Kong, as the city awaits implementation of a national security law that we have called a death blow to Hong Kong’s autonomy.

  • Companies are being pressured to pledge support for the law, per Hong Kong Free Press: “British multinational banks HSBC, Standard Chartered, and conglomerate Jardine Matheson group have publicly supported Beijing’s plan to promulgate national security laws in Hong Kong. It came after Chinese state media warned HSBC that it would ‘lose all its clients’ if it stayed silent on the issue.”
  • The U.S. State Department has updated its travel advisory for Hong Kong to say that because of the impending law, “U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Hong Kong may be subject to increased levels of surveillance, as well as arbitrary enforcement of laws for purposes other than maintaining law and order.”

Further grieving protesters, a national anthem law was passed by the city’s legislature earlier today. The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall):

Earlier, the city’s mostly pro-Beijing legislature voted overwhelmingly to pass the anthem law, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of 50,000 Hong Kong dollars ($6,450) for those who insult the anthem. The minority opposition camp boycotted the vote, after months of filibustering failed to halt its passage.

NPR has more on the law, which has been debated for over a year: On Tiananmen anniversary, Hong Kong criminalizes mocking China’s national anthem.