Tiananmen Massacre Vigil Organizer Arrested as Hong Kong Marks Anniversary

Chow Hang-tung is accused by police of encouraging people to defy a ban on a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park.
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Tiananmen Massacre Vigil Organizer Arrested as Hong Kong Marks Anniversary A small candlelight memorial is held in Hong Kong after police closed the venue where people in the Chinese story traditionally gather annually to mourn the victims of China's Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, which the authorities have banned and vowed to stamp out any protests on the anniversary, June 4, 2021,.

Police in Hong Kong on Friday arrested the head of a rights group that organized candlelight vigils commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre for three decades, for "publicizing" the now-banned event.

Chow Hang-tung, who heads the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was one of two people arrested for calling on others to join a banned vigil for the victims of the 1989 crackdown, when People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops mowed down mostly unarmed civilians with machine guns and tanks, ending weeks of peaceful protest on Tiananmen Square.

A 20-year-old food delivery worker was also arrested.

The pair were accused of publicizing the vigil, which has been banned by the authorities for two years running, on social media, detective senior superintendent Terry Law told reporters, but declined to give specific details.

Chow's arrest came after she told RFA she personally planned to go to Victoria Park on Friday and light a candle to remember those who died in 1989.

"I think lighting candles in Victoria Park shows that we haven't given up," she added.

While Victoria Park remained empty of mourners and protesters, police gathered instead in large numbers on the park's soccer pitches on Friday, throwing several layers of security around the area.

Local media said up to 7,000 officers were being deployed in case anyone tried to defy the ban.

Some people left flowers and candles at the feet of the Goddess of Democracy statue on the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) campus, while artists laid white mourning flowers in a road in the Causeway Bay shopping district to mark the 32nd anniversary of the massacre.

Police have warned that anyone dressed in black, or anyone seen chanting slogans or lighting candles could be seen as breaking the ban.

Support for allies grows

Former pollster Robert Chung said the numbers of police were "overwhelming and unnecessary."

"It is more likely to spark a backlash and push people away from any sense of patriotism," Chung said.

Chung Kim-wah of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute (PORI) said Chow's arrest suggested the authorities are beginning to act in a more arbitrary manner.

CUHK student activist Yuen Tak-chi said he would mark the massacre anniversary this year despite boycotting it in previous years because he believed Hong Kong's political struggles to be distinct from those of mainland China.

But he said that, since the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed a draconian national security law on Hong Kong from July 1, 2020, the city's concerns are now closely aligned with the mainland Chinese democracy movement.

"We used to despise the June 4th vigil at Victoria Park. We thought it was pointless," Yuen said. "How could [the official verdict on the 1989 protests] ever be overturned?"

"But this form of resistance we despised in the past has now become a red line under the national security law," Yuen said.

He said the sacrifices made by mainland Chinese rights lawyers, some of whom lost their licenses for speaking out on behalf of the 12 Hong Kong activists detained and later jailed in Shenzhen, had made many in Hong Kong realize that they are all on the same side in the struggle against authoritarian government.

"To mourn the victims of June 4 is to show support and respect for our allies, [China's] human rights lawyers," he said.

Reported by Cheng Yut Yiu, Man Hoi Yan, Lau Siu Fung and Chan Yun Nam for RFA's Cantonese and Mandarin Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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