BFF-33. 34 Thousands in Hong Kong defy Tiananmen vigil ban

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Thousands in Hong Kong defy Tiananmen vigil ban

HONG KONG, June 4, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Thousands of Hong Kong
protesters lit candles and chanted democracy slogans as they defied a
ban Thursday against gathering to commemorate China’s deadly Tiananmen
crackdown, with tensions seething in the financial hub over a planned
new security law.

Crowds streamed into one of the city’s main parks that has hosted
huge Tiananmen anniversary vigils for the past three decades, with
smaller rallies erupting across the finance hub.

Police arrested some demonstrators in a shopping district on
although they allowed the main rally at Victoria Park to proceed.

The displays of resistance came hours after Hong Kong’s legislature
passed a bill criminalising insults to China’s national anthem, which
the pro-democracy movement sees as yet another example of eroding
freedoms.

China’s plans to impose a security law on Hong Kong criminalising
treason and subversion, has cemented fears that the semi-autonomous
city is losing its treasured liberties.

“I’ve come here for the vigil for 30 years in memory of the victims
of the June 4 crackdown, but this year it is more significant to me,”
a 74-year-old man who gave his surname as Yip told AFP as he joined
the crowds inside Victoria Park.

“Because Hong Kong is experiencing the same kind of repression from
the same regime, just like what happened in Beijing.”

Hundreds of people — by some estimates more than a thousand —
were killed in 1989 when China’s communist rulers deployed the
military into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to crush a student-led
movement for democratic reforms.

Commemorations of the event are forbidden in mainland China but
have been allowed in semi-autonomous Hong Kong, which has been granted
liberties under the terms of its 1997 handover from the British.

This year’s vigil was banned, with authorities citing coronavirus
restrictions on group gatherings.

However thousands of people, including prominent democracy leaders,
poured into Victoria Park on Thursday evening and lit candles as an
act of remembrance and resistance.

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Some wore black t-shirts with the word “Truth” emblazoned in white.
Others were in office attire.

Many shouted pro-democracy slogans including “Stand with Hong Kong”
and “End one party rule”, in reference to the communists who hold
monopoly power in China.

Other candle-light vigils were held in local neighbourhoods,
shopping districts and churches across Hong Kong, according to AFP
reporters covering the various events.

– Neighbourhood, church vigils –

Crowds have swelled at Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigils whenever fears
have spiked that Beijing is prematurely stamping out the city’s own
cherished freedoms, an issue that has dominated the finance hub for
the past 12 months.

The city was engulfed by seven straight months of huge and often
violent pro-democracy protests last year — rallies that kicked off
five days after the last annual vigil.

In response to those demonstrations Beijing last month announced
plans to impose the security law.
China says the law — which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature — is
needed to tackle “terrorism” and “separatism” in a restless city it
now regards as a direct national security threat.

Critics, including many Western nations, fear it will bring
mainland-style political oppression to a business hub.

– ‘Complete nonsense’ –

In mainland China, authorities do not allow any open discussion
about the Tiananmen crackdown and censors scrub any mention of it off
the internet.

The candle emoji has been unavailable in recent days on China’s
Twitter-like Weibo platform.

Police in Beijing prevented an AFP photographer from entering
Tiananmen Square to record the regular pre-dawn flag-raising ceremony
on Thursday and ordered him to delete some photos.

The United States and Taiwan issued statements on Wednesday calling
on China to atone for the deadly crackdown.

“Around the world, there are 365 days in a year. Yet in China, one
of those days is purposely forgotten each year,” Taiwan’s President
Tsai Ing-wen tweeted.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a photo of him meeting
prominent Tiananmen survivors.

China’s foreign ministry described calls for Beijing to apologise
for the crackdown as “complete nonsense”.

“The great achievements since the founding of new China over the
past 70 or so years fully demonstrates that the developmental path
China has chosen is completely correct,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told
reporters.

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