Hong Kong Park, where the vigil that marks the anniversary of the massacre of protesters in Tiananmen Square (Heavenly Peace Square) in China is held each year, was empty on Friday (4) for the first time in 32 years.
Police blocked access to Victoria Park, preventing the traditional candlelight demonstration that is held every year in the early evening to commemorate the bloody crackdown by the Chinese military against the pro-democracy movement in Beijing on the 4th. June 1989.
In addition, the organizer of the meeting of the few pro-democracy demonstrators on the island who had not yet been arrested or gone into exile, was arrested early this Friday.
The semi-autonomous region of Hong Kong was the only place in the country where tributes to this historic event, banned in China, were tolerated. But with the growing offensive by the Chinese government against all forms of opposition in the former British colony, the vigil was banned.
Tributes to that date were also vetoed last year, but thousands defied the order and took to the streets.
This year, on the outskirts of the park, police cordon were formed, in which officers arrested and searched anyone who approached. Loudspeakers ordered pedestrians from surrounding streets to disperse.
About 7,000 police officers were mobilized to prevent the protests from taking place.
Yet there were those who found a way to express themselves. At 8 p.m., in several areas of the city, some residents lit lights in the streets or at their windows, with candles or cell phone lanterns.
In addition, several churches have opened their doors and celebrated services in honor of this date. Many non-religious people attended some of these masses in order to participate in the homage.
Lawyer Chow Hang-tu, 37, one of the organizers of the vigil, was arrested in his office. Police said Chow and a 20-year-old man were arrested on suspicion of promoting an illegal gathering via social media.
“The regime wants to teach us that resistance is futile, but we are going to counter-educate them,” Chow said in a statement signed with other activists.
Authorities have warned they could make further arrests and anyone having an unauthorized encounter in the park could face up to five years in detention.
China has never transparently reported on the violence in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The official tally says there were around 300 dead, mostly soldiers, but human rights groups. man and witnesses say thousands must have been killed.
The watch ban comes at a time when the international community is increasingly concerned about the suppression of freedoms in Hong Kong, notably through a national security law imposed by Beijing last year.
Last month, Joshua Wong, a well-known pro-democracy activist, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for his participation on the eve of 2020, and three others were sentenced to six months. 20 others will be tried on similar charges on June 11.