Hong Kong Bans Tiananmen Vigil for Second Year Citing Virus

Hong Kong authorities have blocked democracy advocates for the second year in a row from holding a candlelight vigil for victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Police denied an application for a permit to hold a public gathering on June 4 in the city’s Victoria Park, said the organizer, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Police cited coronavirus restrictions on gatherings larger than four people, measures that pro-democracy groups contend are being used to stifle dissent.

The Hong Kong police didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The decision was first reported by the Ming Pao newspaper.

For three decades, pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong had commemorated the crackdown, when Communist Party leaders sent the People’s Liberation Army into Tiananmen Square and surrounding streets to clear protesters. City authorities banned the vigil for the first time last year, citing the coronavirus restrictions.

The refusal to grant a permit gives police the power to criminally charge organizers and attendees if the protest goes ahead. Last year, thousands assembled to commemorate the day, skirting metal barricades to congregate in the park.

In 2019, the Tiananmen vigil drew more than 180,000 participants to the park, according to the organizers -- making it the largest turnout since the vigils began in 1990. Police estimated a smaller crowd, saying 37,000 attended at its peak.

The events of 1989 have particular resonance in Hong Kong. The city’s memorial is the only one allowed on Chinese soil, since China’s Communist Party has forbidden any kind of memorials and has virtually scrubbed the events from history books and the internet.

The crackdown unfolded after the U.K. government signed the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration that paved the way for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule, and ahead of the formal handover in 1997 -- spooking residents worried about the city’s future.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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