Hongkongers fight to keep memory of Tiananmen alive despite second ban on Victoria Park vigil

Domestic News

Hong Kong’s Victoria Park was empty on June 4 for the first time in 32 years, as police enforced a ban on the annual Tiananmen remembrance vigil. Some Hongkongers defied police and gathered near the park and elsewhere, while others found more subtle ways to mark the day.

Illustration by Derek Zheng

Until today, every year on June 4 beginning in 1990, thousands have gathered in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to light candles, listen to speakers, and remember the events of the same day in 1989 in Beijing.

But this year, Victoria Park was more thoroughly cordoned off, and only police officers were present as they enforced a ban on the annual vigil for the second time. The official reason for the vigil gathering ban was, like last year, pandemic precautions, despite the city recording no local transmissions of COVID-19 for six weeks.

  • Police today “arrested Chow Hang Tung [鄒幸彤 Zōu Zìngtóng], vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China,” which normally organizes the vigil, for continuing to promote gatherings this year despite the ban, Reuters reports.
  • A museum dedicated to remembering the 1989 crackdown, which is run by the same alliance, was “closed Wednesday three days after opening” because authorities were investigating “whether it had licenses to conduct public exhibitions,” AP reports.

Amid the restrictions, Hongkongers still found ways to mark the day other than gathering in Victoria Park itself.

  • “More than 300” residents defied the police by participating in group vigils near Victoria Park and elsewhere, the Financial Times reports, shining phone flashlights, lighting candles, or simply showing “pictures of burning candles on their mobile phones at the time of the planned vigil.”
  • “At the University of Hong Kong on Friday afternoon, students took part in an annual washing of the ‘Pillar of Shame’ sculpture, which was erected to remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown,” per AP.
  • “At least four men and two women” were arrested on charges including “inciting others to participate in an unauthorized assembly, common assault, criminal damage, disorderly behavior in public and obstructing police,” the Hong Kong Free Press reports.
  • Others “gathered online, to watch a reading of a play” about June 4, 1989, or “prowled bookstores, on a scavenger hunt for protest-themed postcards hidden in the stacks,” among other activities, the New York Times says.

In mainland China, censors busied themselves by snuffing out emojis or images of candles, plus other more indirect symbols to mark the day. The U.K. embassy in China said that it posted a GIF of a candle to Weibo that was then taken down within 20 minutes.

  • Another top social media site, Douban, “took the unusual step of preemptively silencing popular accounts simply for being influential, even though they hadn’t posted anything politically sensitive,” Variety reports.

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