Hong Kong: Thousands defy ban to attend Tiananmen vigil to honor massacre victims

Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong have defied a ban to stage a mass vigil in memory of the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.

Officers erected barricades around the city’s Victoria Park, but some pro-democracy protesters knocked them down and held candlelit gatherings.

Police banned the vigil this year, citing coronavirus measures.

Earlier, lawmakers approved a controversial bill making it a crime to insult China’s national anthem.

Ahead of the vote, two legislators were taken away by security guards after throwing a foul-smelling liquid on to the chamber floor.

They said they were protesting against China’s growing control over Hong Kong, and also marking the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

The latest events come as the Chinese government is drawing up a new security law for Hong Kong, a move that threatens to raise tensions even further.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only parts of China that have been allowed to mark the killings. On the mainland, references to the crackdown are banned, and the government mentions it rarely – if at all.

On 4 June 1989, troops and tanks opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing – estimates of the dead vary from a few hundred to several thousand.

Tens of thousands of people normally mark the anniversary in Hong Kong, but police told local media that 3,000 riot officers would be deployed to stop smaller or impromptu commemorations.

The Hong Kong Alliance – which organises the annual vigil – published a timetable for a home-based commemoration, asking people to light a candle at 20:00 local time “no matter where you are”, followed by a minute’s silence, songs, and “chanting of slogans”.

They also said they would to send delegates to Victoria Park in small groups that comply with social distancing rules.

Groups of up to eight are allowed to gather in Hong Kong under the territory’s virus rules. But police sources told the South China Morning Post that if different groups gathered for a “common purpose”, they would be moved on.

Some pro-democracy activists marked the anniversary outside a Hong Kong prison on Wednesday evening.