Hong Kong police ban Tiananmen memorial vigil, citing Covid-19

Announcement means event will not be held for first time since massacre in 1989

Hong Kong police have formally banned this week’s vigil for the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing Covid-19 measures.

The move had been expected, especially after the Hong Kong government extended its ban on public gatherings in groups larger than eight, but the announcement confirms that for the first time since the Chinese military killed untold numbers of protesters on 4 June 1989, there will be no commemorative event.

The annual event – a sombre and peaceful affair attended by tens of thousands – is also often a vehicle for other causes. Attenders last year drew awareness to a proposed extradition bill that would draw a million people to the streets in protest just a few days later, and spark months of demonstrations.

On Monday, Hong Kong’s police force wrote to organisers of the vigil to object to it taking place, citing the social distancing measures that were due to expire on Tuesday.

It said public assemblies were a “high-risk activity” owing to the large crowds that gather.

“Police believe the event will not only increase participants’ chances of contracting the virus, but also threaten citizens’ lives and health, thus endangering public safety and affecting the rights of others,” police said.

The decision follows a vote by China’s ceremonial parliament to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and enact national security legislation for the semi-autonomous territory. Democracy activists and many legal experts worry that the law could curtail free speech and opposition political activities.

Lee Cheuk-yan, an organiser of the vigil and chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, expressed disappointment and urged people to light candles individually and observe a moment of silence.

Amnesty International said authorities should facilitate a socially distanced vigil rather than ban it.

“Covid-19 must not be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the group’s deputy director for east and south-east Asia. “With this ban, and a disastrous national security law looming, it is not clear if Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil will ever be allowed to take place again.”

Hong Kong has reported five local infections of the coronavirus in the last two days, ending a nearly two-week streak of no new cases apart from those brought in from abroad.

Hong Kong also reported its first locally transmitted case of the virus in more than two weeks. Numerous restrictions, including on swimming pools and religious gatherings, were recently lifted, prompting accusations that the ban on gatherings was only staying in place to prevent protests, and the vigil.

Associated Press contributed to this report

Contributor

Helen Davidson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Hong Kong police investigate organisers of Tiananmen Square vigil
Longstanding group accused of being ‘agent of foreign forces’ and is asked for information about its membership

Helen Davidson in Taipei

26, Aug, 2021 @7:48 AM

Article image
Hong Kong finds new ways to remember Tiananmen Square amid vigil ban
Residents light candles, lay flowers and paint messages as police enforce ban on annual vigil for massacre

Helen Davidson

04, Jun, 2021 @11:54 AM

Article image
Tiananmen Square massacre marked with Hong Kong vigil
More than 100,000 gather for anniversary but many fear for future of commemoration

Helen Davidson in Hong Kong

04, Jun, 2019 @2:56 PM

Article image
Hong Kong protesters hold banned Tiananmen vigil as anthem law is passed
Protesters defy police ban as legislation prohibits mockery of Chinese anthem

Guardian reporter in Hong Kong

04, Jun, 2020 @5:31 PM

Article image
Hong Kong police raid Tiananmen massacre museum
Crackdown follows arrest of four members of civil society group that ran June 4th Museum

Helen Davidson in Taipei

09, Sep, 2021 @7:29 AM

Article image
Hong Kong blocks Tiananmen Square vigil with gathering ban
Restrictions were due to end but Hong Kong extends social distancing measures for 14 days

Helen Davidson

19, May, 2020 @8:53 AM

Article image
Tiananmen anniversary: the marked contrast of Hong Kong and Beijing
Tens of thousands unhindered at candlelit vigil as security, house arrests and censorship stepped up in crackdown on mainland

Tania Branigan in Beijing

04, Jun, 2014 @6:27 PM

Article image
Hong Kong vigil leader arrested as 7,000 police enforce ban on Tiananmen anniversary protests
Officers have been mobilised to break up the once-traditional events to mark the brutal crackdown against dissent in China 32 years ago

Helen Davidson in Taipei and Vincent Ni

04, Jun, 2021 @10:45 AM

Tiananmen Square memorial museum to open in Hong Kong – video

The first permanent museum dedicated to the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is planned to open on 4 June

18, Apr, 2014 @8:58 AM

Article image
Concern as Hong Kong postpones elections for a year, citing Covid-19
The government’s decision is ‘an assault on fundamental freedoms’, says Hong Kong Watch, as democracy deteriorates

Helen Davidson and agencies

31, Jul, 2020 @1:04 PM