Hong Kong vigil for Tianamen banned, first in 30 years

On June 4, 2019, for the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, the candlelight vigil drew thousands of people to Victoria Park in Hong Kong. PHILIP FONG / AFP

Text by: RFI Follow

The ceremonies should have been held this June 4, as every year. So far, Hong Kong has been the only region in China to commemorate the massacre of Chinese students by the military in Tiananmen in June 1989. But for the first time this year, the commemorative vigil will not take place. Gathering prohibited by the Hong Kong authorities, officially for health reasons linked to the Covid-19 epidemic.


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It is a political maneuver to cancel this vigil  ". There is little doubt for Eric Lai, of the Civil Front for Human Rights, joined by Vincent Souriau, journalist with the international service of RFI. First, the organizers had proposed a whole series of measures to maintain social distancing, " he said. Second, because at this time schools are reopening and recreational activities are resuming, there is no reason not to allow an outdoor meeting.  "

According to Eric Lai, "  since February, the government has used the state of emergency linked to Covid-19 to restrict demonstrations and prosecute pro-democracy demonstrators, knowing that it has nothing to fear since none assembly is only allowed. Add to that the security law that has just been passed by the Chinese parliament to restrict freedoms in Hong Kong and you see that both China and the Hong Kong authorities are doing everything to avoid a new chapter of mass protests.  "

Resumption of the dispute

This vigil draws crowds every year to the territory, in memory of the victims of the bloody intervention of the Chinese army on June 4, 1989 in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. It is the only place in China where the event is usually commemorated.

But this year, local authorities have invoked the pandemic to ban it, in a context of tensions in the former British colony. While many expected a resumption of the dispute with the lifting of restrictions related to the coronavirus, Beijing took the lead in choosing to impose a controversial national security law on its autonomous region. Beijing says that this text, which will not go before the Hong Kong Parliament, is necessary to fight against "  terrorism  " and "  separatism  ".

 Mike Pompeo " Gagged " Hong Kongers 

This Tuesday, the head of the American diplomacy Mike Pompeo accused Beijing of wanting to “  gag the Hong Kongers  ” by prohibiting in the territory the annual vigil in memory of the repression of Tiananmen. It's already starting  ," deplored in a tweet the Secretary of State, who sees in it the proof of the abandonment of the "one country, two systems" model, which had presided over the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997 and which is supposed to guarantee broad autonomy and freedoms in Hong Kong.

State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus, for her part, "  urged the Hong Kong authorities to authorize the peaceful commemoration of the victims of the Chinese Communist Party  ".

The United States now considers that the territory no longer benefits from the autonomy promised by Beijing and has therefore started to reverse the preferential status it granted to this major financial center. Mike Pompeo was to meet this Tuesday in Washington with "  survivors  " from Tiananmen, according to his official agenda.

Last year, the 30th anniversary vigil had already taken place in a tense political context. The pro-Beijing executive then tried to impose a controversial text which would allow extraditions to China to be authorized. And a week later, a major political crisis would begin, with seven months of almost daily demonstrations and actions in the semi-autonomous region.

Major threat to the life and health of the public  "

In a letter dated Monday, the Hong Kong police said it was not giving the green light to hold the event on Thursday because it would constitute "  a major threat to the life and health of the public  ".

Despite its interconnection with China, the official home of the coronavirus, Hong Kong has successfully contained the Covid-19 epidemic, which infected only a thousand people and left four dead. Bars, restaurants, cinemas and other public places have reopened in recent weeks. But while no case of local contamination had been recorded for two weeks, the city has just listed five in two days.

The organizers of the vigil none the less accuse the executive, which is aligned with Beijing, of using the virus to prevent the holding of an event which irritates the central government. The Support Alliance of the Patriotic Movements of China thus called on the inhabitants of the city to light wherever they are a candle this Thursday evening at 8 p.m. and to observe a minute of silence.

(and with AFP)

Read also: China promises to counterattack after Trump's announcements on Hong Kong

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