CNA Staff, Jun 1, 2020 / 09:00 am
Hong Kong police have reportedly curtailed a vigil for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing public health concerns.
The cancellation of the annual vigil comes after the Chinese legislature last week moved to impose security laws on Hong Kong that democracy advocates say completely undermine the region’s autonomy.
On Monday, the city’s police force sent a letter to the organizer of the Tiananmen vigil saying that the annual event could not take place out of caution for spreading the new coronavirus, the Hong Kong Free Press reported. The police said they were extending current public health restrictions on gatherings to the event.
It is reportedly the first time in 30 years that the vigil will not take place in Hong Kong, which commemorates the killing of hundreds pro-democracy protesters by the Chinese military in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, on June 3-4 in 1989.
The “special administrative regions” of Hong Kong and Macau are the only places in China where the events have been publicly commemorated. Vigils for the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen last year were censored in the Chinese mainland. The annual vigil in the city’s Victoria Park draws large crowds every year. In 2019, organizers estimated participation at 180,000, though police announced a crowd size of only 40,000.
As a “special administrative region” of China, Hong Kong has its own legislature and economic system as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement when the United Kingdom transferred control of the territory to China in 1997.
While tensions with the Chinese mainland have existed since the handover, in recent years pro-democracy advocates have voiced increasing concerns that the city’s autonomy is in jeopardy.
Last summer, Hong Kong’s legislature introduced a controversial bill that would allow for extradition of alleged criminals to the Chinese mainland; the bill was pulled after months of large-scale pro-democracy protests. Mass demonstrations and street protests continued throughout the second half of 2019, with some Catholic students taking a role in the protests to push for autonomy and religious freedom.