Authorities in Hong Kong have turned away a former leader of the 1989 democracy protests on Beijing's Tiananmen Square ahead of the 30th anniversary of a massacre by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) that ended the nationwide movement.
Feng Congde, 53, was refused entry to the former British colony on Sunday, after he arrived to take part in the only public memorial of June 4, 1989 held on Chinese soil.
According to the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the annual June 4 candlelight vigil that Feng was due to attend, Feng was taken away by Hong Kong immigration officers shortly after getting off a flight from Tokyo.
He was forced to return to Japan after being denied entry to Hong Kong, but was never given a reason for the decision, Feng told RFA on Monday.
"I kept asking them the reason, and they waffled on for a long time without actually telling me," Feng said. "They said it was under Article 115 of some law or other, but I don't know what they meant."
"I asked them if they were acting on orders from the central government [in Beijing], and they didn't reply," he said. "I overheard one of them saying 'is this about Tiananmen?'"
"But they wouldn't tell me, regardless," he said. "Then they wanted me to sign something, and asked me if I had any money on me. I think they were in a big hurry to put me on the next flight out."
Feng said he may seek legal advice on returning to the U.S.
"I don't think this was normal ... Under Hong Kong law I shouldn't have run into any problems, whereas I am a fugitive offender according to the Chinese government," Feng said.
"Personally, I have come to the conclusion there is no longer any such thing as 'one country, two systems'," he said, in a reference to the promised framework under which Hong Kong was supposed to maintain its existing freedoms and status as a separate legal jurisdiction after the 1997 handover to China.
"Hong Kong isn't the same free city that it used to be," he said. "It has been taken over by the [ruling] Chinese Communist Party."
Hong Kong secretary for security John Lee said exiled Chinese democracy activists had been denied entry into Hong Kong as early as 2012.
"I'm not going to comment on individual cases, nor on this particular case," Lee said.
"But I will say that the decision to refuse entry to someone is only made after careful consideration of the individual circumstances and of current immigration policy and existing laws."
Campaign for reappraisal
Since the massacre of civilians with machine guns and tanks began 30 years ago on the night of June 3, 1989, the Alliance has campaigned for a reappraisal of the ruling Communist Party's verdict of "counterrevolutionary rebellion," which the Chinese leadership under late supreme leader Deng Xiaoping used to justify the bloodshed.
Hong Kong is the only Chinese city that still holds regular memorial events for the victims of the massacre, including the Alliance's mass candlelight vigil in downtown Victoria Park.
Hong Kong lawmaker and rights lawyer Albert Ho, who heads the Alliance, said the candlelight vigil will go ahead as planned on Tuesday.
"It is the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre this year ... and I think we will see many people of good conscience gathering together for the June 4 candlelight vigil," Ho told RFA.
"I'm hoping there will be more than 100,000 people attending, maybe a bit more than in the two previous years," he said. "There will be a well-known singer and democracy activist performing this year, as well as speeches and videos for people to see."
Focus on changes
Alliance secretary Lee Cheuk-yan said the anniversary will likely be focusing people's minds on proposed changes to Hong Kong's extradition law that will likely see the rendition of alleged criminal suspects to face charges in mainland Chinese courts.
"A regime that put down the democracy movement is now trying to impose its own judicial system on Hong Kong, by extraditing Hong Kong people to mainland China to face trial," Lee said.
"I think people are going to be linking the two things together, so I think that will mean a lot of people come out [to attend the vigil]."
Hong Kong was promised the continuation of its existing freedoms and separate legal jurisdiction for 50 years under the "one country, two systems" pledge from Beijing.
But there are signs that those freedoms are fast eroding, following the imprisonment of former participants in Hong Kong's own 2014 democracy movement and the removal of six opposition lawmakers from the city's Legislative Council.
Reported by Wong Lok-to for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.