By Mar Sanchez-Cascado
Hong Kong, Jun 4 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people came out on the Hong Kong streets Thursday to recall the 1989 Tiananmen massacre, even though this year’s vigil was officially vetoed by the police on grounds of public safety due to the Covid-19 crisis.
The commemoration coincided with the passage of a national anthem law in the legislative council, criminalizing any insult to the Chinese anthem, or the March of the Volunteers, with up to three years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $HK50,000 ($6,450).
From the early afternoon onwards, people flocked to the commercial area of Causeway Bay to observe the 31st anniversary of the massacre, despite a police ban for the first time since the island began commemorating it in 1990.
On Jun.4, 1989, the Chinese Army had cracked down on dissenters, killing an unknown number of demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square as well as other parts across the country who were calling for political reform, democracy, and an end to corruption.
Faced with an imposing police presence, the Hong Kongers decided to go out in groups of less than eight to maintain social distance and prevent crowding, as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus, and lit candles to mark the occasion.
“The Hong Kong government has no right to represent us and the PRC (People’s Republic of China) cannot represent us either,” Sunny Lau, a business owner, told EFE, holding a candle at Victoria Park.
“We can’t give up our freedom. It might be easier if we stood by, but we will act, not only for ourselves but also because we believe, plainly and simply, it is the right thing to do. We have the right to remember,” said activist Joshua Wong, one of the most recognized faces of the pro-democracy movement, at the same park.
An increasing number of people kept flocking to the park, where people raised slogans in support of freedom and democracy, held flags and white flowers, symbolizing the rights and freedoms enjoyed by the former British colony.
Shortly thereafter, members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organizes the vigil every year, invited the people to observe a one-minute silence at 20:09 local time (12:09 GMT) in memory of the victims.
Owing to the police ban on the annual vigil, the organizers looked for alternative ways to commemorate the occasion, including by sharing images of candles through social networks.
Throughout the day, the city’s Catholic churches welcomed the people to come and light candles.
At the University of Hong Kong, students gathered at the Pillar of Shame, a concrete sculpture depicting 50 twisted bodies to remember those who died during Beijing’s bloody military repression against the protest movement.
The commemorative acts were marked by a tense calmness throughout the city owing to the passage of the national anthem law and in the wake of a controversial Hong Kong security law with which Beijing seeks to ban any act of “subversion” against the central government in the semi-autonomous city.
The national security law will prohibit “any act of treason, secession, sedition, and subversion” against the central government, in addition to the “theft of state secrets and the organization of activities in Hong Kong by foreign political organizations”, terms that the Chinese government has previously used to curb dissent.
“We will fight until the end because these two laws represent the end of ‘one country, two systems’, the autonomy of Hong Kong,” lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting of the Democratic Party, who was present at the commemoration, said. EFE-EPA