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National Security Clampdown Casts Shadow Over Hong Kong’s Annual Tiananmen Massacre Vigil

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. File Photo: May James/HKFP.
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SELINA CHENG | HONG KONG FREE PRESS

Amid reports that the police are set to reject an application to hold the event on coronavirus health grounds, the city’s leader says whether such ”gatherings” can go ahead depends on them not being in breach of the new national security law.

The future of Hong Kong’s annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre – which was officially banned for the first time in three decades last year due to Covid-19 restrictions – has been cast into further doubt after the city’s leader, Carrie Lam, invoked the Beijing-imposed national security law.

When asked by reporters on Tuesday whether the city’s annual June 4 vigil in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay will be allowed to go ahead – amid rumours that an application to host the event might be struck down by police – the Hong Kong leader said that would depend on whether or not such a gathering breached the new national security law.

“It much depends on what is going to happen in those gatherings and whether they will fall into the offences expressly prohibited in the national security law — that is involved in secession, subversion of Central government and the Hong Kong SAR government, engaging in terrorist activities or collusion with an external party to endanger national security,” Lam said.

In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, foreign interference and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to public transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China.

Citing unnamed sources, local pro-establishment newspapers Sing Tao Daily and HK01 reported on Monday that police may not allow this year’s vigil to go ahead to avoid crowds from congregating under the coronavirus pandemic.

The Tiananmen massacre occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.

‘End one-party rule’

Thousands of Hongkongers gathered at the park last June to commemorate massacre, despite police refusing to give permission to organisers citing public health concerns.

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