Thousands defy vigil ban to mark June 4 crackdown - RTHK
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Thousands defy vigil ban to mark June 4 crackdown

2020-06-04 HKT 18:48
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  • Thousands defy vigil ban to mark June 4 crackdown
  • Organisers of the annual June 4 vigil started off by lighting candles by a fountain in the park, before pushing through barriers to access the football pitches were the event is usually held. Photo: RTHK
    Organisers of the annual June 4 vigil started off by lighting candles by a fountain in the park, before pushing through barriers to access the football pitches were the event is usually held. Photo: RTHK
  • People quietly held candles, many using paper cones with the word 'truth' printed on it in Chinese, as they remembered those who died during the Tiananmen crackdown 31 years ago. Photo: RTHK
    People quietly held candles, many using paper cones with the word 'truth' printed on it in Chinese, as they remembered those who died during the Tiananmen crackdown 31 years ago. Photo: RTHK
Thousands of people gathered at Victoria Park on Thursday evening to light candles in remembrance of those who died during the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown – even though the police had for the first time in three decades banned the annual candlelight vigil due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – which has organised the gatherings every year in Victoria Park since the bloody suppression of the democracy movement in Beijing – lit the first candles at around 6.30pm – not atop a stage as usual, but by a water fountain at the park.

The football pitches – which are usually packed full by the early evening – were closed off as the authorities told people they had to abide by the regulations banning more than eight people from gathering at a public place.

Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan led chants for the authorities to vindicate the 1989 pro-democracy movement, and to oppose a planned national security law being drawn up by Beijing to be imposed on Hong Kong.

“Vindicate June 4th! End to one party rule! Democracy in China now!” they chanted.

The group then slowly walked to the football pitches, after some people pushed down barriers that had been set up.

Even though the authorities incessantly broadcast audio messages warning people that gatherings of more than eight people are prohibited and violators may be prosecuted, a steady stream of people continued flooding into the park.

A small crowd of around a hundred people gradually grew into the thousands, with two football pitches almost filled up before 8pm, while large crowds of people were still lining up for candles being handed out outside the park.

Police kept a low-key presence around the park, and took no action to prevent people from streaming in despite the open defiance of the ban.

A woman who gave her name as Pong said she wasn't that surprised that police didn't take action, seeing as the eyes of the world were on Hong Kong. "I’m not so surprised because I think they will pay a very high cost if they [tried to disperse the people]", she said.

People inside the park did their best to maintain social distancing, with groups of people keeping their distance from one another.

“We cannot just stop our voice if they ban us,” one man who gave his name as Ming said.

“It is just not fair to those people who fought before, and also those who got arrested in the past year, if we just die down and [go] silent. It is actually the resistance to come out to voice out [our concerns] under the oppression of police.”

The crowd observed a minute of silence shortly past 8pm, though some people in the crowd kept talking even as others told them to quiet down.

Beijing's plans to enact national security legislation for Hong Kong didn't stop people from chanting protest slogans – including provocative ones like “Hong Kong independence is the only way out!”

At around 8.45pm, organisers declared an end to the vigil, and people started leaving in an orderly manner.

Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said even though Beijing will soon be unilaterally imposing a national security law on Hong Kong, they will be back next year no matter what.

“We call upon the people of Hong Kong to light a candle with us next year on June 4, and we will continue… we will fight on, and we will let the world know we Hong Kong people will not give up our freedom”, he said.

Lee added that Thursday’s peaceful rally despite the police ban clearly shows that with enough persistence, they can still gather to remember those who died 31 years ago.

He also said the memorial sends a clear message to the international community.

"This is an international front for Hong Kong to show to the world that though China is totally dark and brain-washing their own people; in Hong Kong, we still will light our candles for those who sacrificed [their lives] back in the '89 democracy movement", he said.


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Last updated: 2020-06-04 HKT 21:02