The Chinese Communist Party is preparing to extinguish the last public event in Beijing-controlled territories to commemorate Tiananmen Square massacre A goal that has eluded him for more than three decades.
The annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park usually draws tens of thousands of people to remember those who died in Beijing on June 4, 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army crushed protests by pro-democracy protesters and their supporters in the Chinese capital.
While Last year’s vigil It was banned by Hong Kong police on public health grounds as the region was battling the Covid-19 pandemic, and thousands of people still gathered to light candles while police watched.
This year’s meeting, which was to take place on Friday, has also been banned due to the pandemic. But activists believe that Hong Kong residents will be less likely to engage in another act of collective defiance after imposing National Security Law last year which included harsh penalties for vandalism and other crimes against the state.
The vigil, held since 1990, is seen as a great symbol of Hong Kong’s freedoms, showing off the city’s independence spirit to the rest of the world. It has become a major annual event for pro-democracy groups, as families attend to light candles and sing songs.
Many believe that the Security Act will make it impossible to erect any memorials in the future even after the pandemic has subsided.
“With this step, Hong Kong is getting close to being just another Chinese city,” said Minxin Bai, a China expert at Claremont McKenna College in California. This year, they can hide behind the epidemic. Next year, they’ll use another excuse.”
A mainland academic advising Beijing on Hong Kong policy issues said the Chinese government can no longer stand a vigil.
“The assembly has a political purpose and is inconsistent with the national security law that prohibits undermining state power,” the person said. “It’s not a simple meeting.”
He said China should be on alert in case the council leads to “political turmoil”.
Dozens of activists and some of those who participated in the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong two years ago – In addition to the banned vigils last year – in prison for participating in or organizing unauthorized protests. Several of them are also awaiting trial for violations of the National Security Act, which carry up to life imprisonment.
A recent bail request was made by Claudia Mo, one of 47 co-defendants sabotage trial, after prosecutors cited her interviews with Western media. The prosecution cited WhatsApp messages and television interviews in which it said the national security law had thrown a “political response” to the region.
However, many Hong Kong residents will mark the 32nd anniversary of Tiananmen this year by lighting candles in special places.
Lee Cheok Yan, a veteran pro-democracy activist and vigil organizer jailed for his role in the 2019 protests, told friends that he would send smoke signals with a lit cigarette from his prison cell.
“The fourth of June symbolizes Hong Kong’s freedom,” said Zhao Hang Tong, a lawyer and vice president of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of National Democratic Movements in China, which is organizing the vigil. “At present, the risk of any kind of political participation is very high, [the authorities] They control people with fear.”
But, she added, “the strength that has accumulated for 32 years within each person is not easy to get ahead of.”
Zhao said the government is still using the epidemic as an excuse, rather than banning the celebration on national security grounds, because “the backlash will be massive.”
Richard Tsui, another member of the coalition, argued that while this year’s memorials “may be less visible, we can maintain our strength and [hopefully] They have the ability to mourn him in the future.”
Willy Lam, a China expert from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he expects a handful of mourners to appear, although the government’s “hard tactics” and threats of imprisonment are likely to discourage most of them from attending.
Many pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong argue that the goals of the alliance, which calls for an “end of one-party dictatorship” in China, run counter to the national security law.
Ronnie Tong, consultant Carrie Lam, Chief Executive Officer of Hong Kong. Regina Ip, another pro-Beijing politician, said the event was being used as “a big stick to hit China”.
However, others in the Hong Kong establishment fear that the Lam administration has gone too far in its attempts to please Beijing.
A broader effort is being made to review how the history of Hong Kong and China is taught in the territory. The curriculum is being rewritten and a local museum closed on June 4 temporarily Wednesday night after officials accused it of violating local laws.
“It’s getting worse,” said a veteran member of the pro-Beijing political camp in the province who feels the crackdown was excessive. “Beijing cannot tolerate one dissenting voice.”
Additional reporting by Xining Liu in Beijing