For the second year in a row, Hong Kong authorities have banned the June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park.
Tens of thousands of people normally gather at the park to commemorate those killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.
Last year, the police cited the pandemic for refusing to allow the event, and this was also the reason given for barring the event this time.
Officers said Hong Kong’s response level to the Covid-19 pandemic remains at the highest “emergency” level, warning that allowing the event to go ahead would increase participants’ risk of contracting the virus.
The force added that the gathering would not only put other people’s health at risk, but it would also endanger public safety and affect the rights of others.
The vigil organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, had earlier urged the police not to prevent the memorial from taking place and offered to ensure that participants complied with social distancing measures.
The alliance said it will appeal against the decision to ban the event, and hopes a hearing can be held as soon as possible so that people can attend in a legal and safe manner.
“Remembering June 4 is the collective memory of Hong Kong people,” the alliance said, adding that it will continue to fight for people’s right to hold the memorial legally.
But Security Secretary John Lee is warning people against taking part or even promoting the vigil – as well as a protest planned for May 30, for which police also refused to give their permission – as it is now considered an unauthorised assembly.
The maximum penalty for taking part in an unauthorised assembly is five years’ imprisonment.
Last year, thousands of people defied the police ban and gathered in small groups in Victoria Park on June 4. Several prominent pro-democracy figures are being prosecuted for unauthorised assembly.
Some pro-Beijing figures have suggested that the vigil could breach the national security law, although the authorities have not stated whether or not they believe this to be the case.
At a meeting on Tuesday, the police had asked organisers about their past activities and goals, including the demand for an end to one-party rule on the mainland, the alliance said.
The security chief declined to answer when asked whether chanting for the end of one-party rule would be considered a breach of the national security law.
But he said it is illegal for anyone to organise, plan, or implement means to disrupt or subvert the country’s constitutional system.
Last updated: 2021-05-27 HKT 16:49