Hong Kong Police Warn Tiananmen Anniversary Rallies Will Break Law | hong kong

Hong Kong police have warned people risk breaking the law if they gather on Saturday to commemorate China’s Tiananmen crackdown – particularly in the city’s Victoria Park, the site of an annual candlelight vigil .

Discussion of the June 4, 1989 crackdown, when the Chinese government sent troops and tanks on peaceful protesters, is banned in mainland China. For decades, Hong Kong has exercised its semi-autonomy and freedom of speech to hold an annual candle-lit memorial for the victims. But after the introduction of the National Security Act in 2020, that ended.

For the past two years, authorities have banned gatherings in Victoria Park on the anniversary, citing pandemic restrictions that many believe were being misused to silence the vigil. Last year, thousands of riot police were put on alert.

This year, Hong Kong police warned people they risk breaking laws against unlawful assembly and incitement if they try to mark the anniversary on Saturday, regardless of the number.

“When there are other people out there, and you share a common goal to voice calls, that’s enough to make you a member of an unlawful assembly,” Chief Superintendent Liauw said Thursday. Ka-kei.

When asked if residents could wear black clothes, bring flowers or candles, and appear near the park, he said, “If that person makes us feel like their purpose is to incite others, we’ll look for of course proof. ”

He said police noticed calls on social media to gather at the park on Saturday, but did not give details.

Liauw also said anyone who encouraged an unauthorized gathering in Victoria Park, even if they themselves did not show up, will have broken the law. Gatherings in other locations would receive similar treatment, he added.

Since the security law came into effect in 2020, a campaign to remove all traces of Tiananmen has swept through the city.

Dozens of lawmakers and activists — many linked to the Vigil — are in jail. The Hong Kong Alliance, the largest Tiananmen advocacy group and the organizer of the vigil, was sued as a “foreign agent” for inciting subversion. Last September, its leaders were arrested, their museum closed after a police raid and digital recordings deleted overnight.

Last December, the University of Hong Kong removed its “Pillar of Shame”, a sculpture commemorating the victims of the massacre that had been at the site for two decades.

The crackdown has cast a chilling shadow over the last defenders of democracy, as well as the media, the arts and the legal profession. Many have been targeted by pro-Beijing newspapers, published on lists of subversive defendants, while human rights lawyers have been branded suspects for representing clients.

This year, for the first time, the city’s Catholic diocese – whose 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen is currently in prison awaiting trial for collusion with foreign forces – has decided not to hold memorial masses. due to security concerns.

Liauw said police had not received any requests to hold a rally in the park on June 4 this year, but officers would guard the area anyway.

Four of the park’s six football pitches have been reserved from early morning until around midnight “by individual citizens for the purpose of playing football”, the Hong Kong Department of Recreation and Cultural Services said. The other two locations have been closed for “maintenance” since early May.

When asked if it was illegal to light a candle on a private balcony — a move many have made over the past two years in the absence of other options — Liauw said he didn’t see no law prohibiting this.

With Agence France Presse

Sara H. Byrd