Thousands flooded Hong Kong’s Victoria Park night for the annual candlelight vigil to mark the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, defying a ban on the mass gathering imposed by the police for the first time on health protection grounds, a media report said on Friday.
The show of defiance on Thursday night came on a politically charged day as the legislature passed a law criminalising disrespect for the national anthem, amid a raging controversy over China’s top legislative body tailor-making a national security law for the city, reports the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
The participants held up candles and lights as the vigil began at 8 p.m., and observed a minute’s silence at 8.09 p.m. to mourn those who died 31 years ago.
Police, who had warned they had thousands of riot officers ready and would enforce anti-coronavirus rules limiting groups to a maximum of eight people each, stood back as the crowds poured into the park in Causeway Bay and took up a couple of football pitches.
The peace was broken only in Mong Kok when protesters blocked Argyle Street and plain-clothes police officers used pepper spray and batons to stop them.
Sources said that at least four people were arrested.
At Victoria Park, social-distancing rules were set aside as participants lit candles and torches in remembrance of the victims of the June 4, 1989 crackdown on China’s pro-democracy protests, and shouted slogans challenging Beijing’s authority.
They also ignored messages broadcast over loudspeakers that they could be spreading COVID-19, said the SCMP report.
On whether the organiser of the vigil would face arrest for the illegal gathering, a source said that police would pursue the matter subject to the strength of evidence.
“The force banned the vigil on health grounds amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but we also understand that the June 4 commemoration is a symbolic and historical event, and it has been peaceful in the past,” another source said.
Hong Kong has been the only place on Chinese soil to hold a large-scale public gathering every year to mark the Tiananmen crackdown.