Gone are the candlelight vigils that brought together tens of thousands of people until 2019 on June 4 in Hong Kong. Security forces on Sunday arrested a prominent figure in the pro-democracy movement and at least seven others on the 34th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

This weekend, police took up a strong stand in and around Victoria Park to question anyone suspected of participating in any form of public commemoration of the events of June 4, 1989.

Alexandra Wong, a 67-year-old pro-democracy activist better known as "Granny Wong", was arrested late Sunday afternoon, along with seven other people, according to AFP journalists.

The police first surrounded her, then Alexandra Wong followed them without resisting, brandishing her bouquet of flowers in the air.

Another woman was also arrested after shouting "Raise candles! Cry on 4/6!", referring to June 4, 1989, the date of the Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing.

Dressed in black, a young man was carrying the book entitled "May 35" at the time of his arrest, another way of referring to the Tiananmen events that took place four days after May 31.

After being briefly interrogated, searched and released, one woman told AFP with a shrug: "Everyone knows what day it is today."

On the eve of the 34th anniversary of Tiananmen, Hong Kong police had already arrested four people for "disorderly conduct on the public highway" and "acts for seditious purposes", and four others for "disturbing public order".

National Security Act

For more than 30 years, tens of thousands of people have gathered annually in Hong Kong's Victoria Park for a candlelight vigil in memory of the victims of Tiananmen in Beijing.

But in 2020 Beijing imposed a national security law in the former British colony to muzzle any dissent after the gigantic pro-democracy protests of 2019.

Hong Kong authorities have since ended vigils that were never allowed in mainland China.

This year, the park's giant gathering in the central Causeway Bay district was replaced by a trade fair dedicated to products from mainland China and organized until Monday by pro-Beijing groups to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China.

"Hong Kong is a different city today," said Wong, 53, who agreed to give only her last name, while praising the pro-China fair.

Hong Kong, returned to China by the United Kingdom in 1997, has long been the only Chinese city to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of Tiananmen.

It was a key indicator of the freedoms and political pluralism conferred on it by its status as a semi-autonomous territory.

Clear memories

In mainland China, all traces of the Tiananmen events have been erased by the authorities. History textbooks do not mention it, online discussions on this subject are systematically censored.

Witness the misadventure of the British embassy in Beijing, which posted Sunday on social networks a front page dated June 4, 1989 of the "People's Daily", the official propaganda organ of the Chinese Communist Party, which described the influx of wounded in hospitals following the repression.

"Within twenty minutes, censors deleted our post from Weibo (Chinese social network)," the British embassy tweeted on Sunday.

This year, Chinese police also monitored several iconic sites of the rare movement of hostility to Xi Jinping's regime that erupted last fall.

A large police force was deployed around Beijing's Sitong Bridge, the scene of a demonstration at the end of November where a banner demanding more freedom was unfurled.

"Ready to face the consequences"

In Hong Kong, most pro-democracy figures have been arrested or have sought refuge abroad since a national security law came into force.

This is particularly the case of the leaders of the association that organized the vigil of Victoria Park, Hong Kong Alliance.

However, the authorities still seemed to be on high alert for possible expressions of dissent.

The city's chief executive, John Lee, warned that every Hong Kong resident must abide by the law and stand "ready to face the consequences" if it is violated.

Elsewhere in the world, June 4 commemorations will take place in Japan, Sydney, New York and London where a re-enactment of the Tiananmen events will be held in Trafalgar Square.

In Taiwan, a play by Hong Kong author Candace Chong, entitled "May 35", will also be performed this Sunday in a theater in the capital.

"History and memory will not be erased easily," said Hong Kong's Sky Fung, secretary-general of the Taipei-based NGO Hong Kong Outlanders. "The spark is always in our hearts."

With AFP

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