Thousands of young people in Hong Kong ignored a police ban and gathered to observe the thirty-first anniversary of the Chinese military’s attack on democracy activists in central Beijing.
The demonstrators pushed through barriers to hold a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park. The vigil honored those killed and injured in the 1989 military action in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square area.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were killed when tanks and troops moved into Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. The action crushed student-led protests there which also had spread to other cities and appeared a threat to the rule of China’s Communist Party.
Hong Kongers have marked the day freely for 30 years.
This year, city officials banned observances for the first time.
The government in Beijing has hardened its position after months of protests in Hong Kong last year. Thousands protested a bill that would have permitted Hong Kongers accused of crimes to be sent to mainland China for trial. That bill was withdrawn; but last month, China’s National Assembly approved a plan to enforce national security laws in the city. Many countries, including the United States and Britain, Hong Kong’s former ruler, have criticized the plan.
On Thursday, Hong Kong’s legislature approved a law that makes it a crime to show disrespect for China’s national anthem.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic and Democratic Movements of China organizes the yearly vigil. The chairman of the group Lee Cheuk-yan called on people to observe the anniversary Thursday night. Lee led a group of about 15 members in a candlelight observance around Victoria Park shouting, “Stand with Hong Kong.”
In the Mongkok area of Kowloon, large crowds also marked the anniversary. But when some protesters tried to block a road, police quickly made arrests.
On Twitter, Hong Kong police said that protesters in black clothing were blocking roads in Mongkok. “Police are now making arrests,” the tweet read.
Police urged people not to gather in groups because of the coronavirus.
In a separate Facebook message, police said the situation in Mongkok was dangerous, and that they used the “minimum force.”
After the vigil in Victoria Park, groups of protesters dressed in black carried flags that said, “Liberate Hong, Revolution of our times” and “Hong Kong Independence.”
Thirty-one years later
Beijing’s Tiananmen Square was quiet and empty on Thursday. Police in military vehicles guarded the huge space. Rights groups say that around the anniversary date, dissidents are usually placed under house arrest and their communications are cut.
Wu’er Kaixi is a former student leader of the Tiananmen protests 31 years ago. He said the Hong Kong and Chinese governments do not want to see candlelight vigils in Victoria Park. He told the Associated Press, “The Chinese Communists want us all to forget about what happened 31 years ago.”
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson defended the government’s actions all those years ago.
Zhao Lijian said, “The Chinese government has made a clear conclusion about the political disturbance…” of the late 1980s. He said China’s policies have won the support of the Chinese people.
I’m Mario Ritter, Jr.
Zen Soo and Ken Moritsugu reported this story for the Associated Press. Mario Ritter Jr. adapted it for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.
Words in This Story
vigil –n. an event when a person or group stays in a place quietly, waits, prays and observes
minimum –adj. the least possible
conclusion –n. a final decision or judgement
disturbance –n. something that stops the usual progression of things