Hong Kongers light up Lion Rock on Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary

Public commemoration of the 1989 bloodshed is now banned under security laws.
By Alice Yam for RFA Cantonese, Han Qing for RFA Mandarin
2024.06.03
Hong Kongers light up Lion Rock on Tiananmen Square massacre anniversary Screenshot from a May 31, 2024, post on the HongKongers in Leeds Facebook page. Risking arrest, Hong Kong residents scaled the city's iconic Lion Rock to hold up illuminated signs marking the 35th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and to support the pro-democracy movement, according to a U.K.-based exile group.
HongKongers in Leeds via Facebook

Risking arrest, Hong Kong residents scaled the city's iconic Lion Rock to hold up illuminated signs marking the 35th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and to support the pro-democracy movement, according to a U.K.-based exile group.

"On the eve of a sensitive date that officials won't mention, a group of Hong Kongers has scaled the mist-shrouded slopes of Lion Rock to shine glory on the summit," the Hong Kongers in Leeds group said via its Facebook page, posting photos of lights making up the numbers 6 and 4 to denote June 4, the date of the 1989 bloodshed.

Another photo showed hands holding placards with the words "Glory" and "HK" illuminated at the summit of Lion Rock, which is part of a country park with hiking trails.

ENG_CHN_JUNE4 LION ROCK_06032024.2.jpg
Screenshot from a May 31, 2024, post on the HongKongers in Leeds Facebook page. Lion Rock made headlines during the 2014 “Occupy Central” pro-democracy movement when protesters hung a large banner calling for fully democratic elections from the lion's "head.” (HongKongers in Leeds via Facebook)

For three decades, thousands of people gathered every June 4 in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of the massacre, until the gathering was banned in 2020 and its organizers jailed.

Last week, national security police arrested seven people including jailed vigil organizer Chow Hang-tung in connection with "seditious" Facebook posts marking the anniversary of the crackdown, which falls on Tuesday, and is now mostly being marked outside China.

Lion’s Rock

Lion Rock made headlines during the 2014 “Occupy Central” pro-democracy movement when protesters hung a large banner calling for fully democratic elections from the lion's "head.” People with laser lights lined up along the outcrop in 2019 as part of a months-long protest against the city's eroding freedoms.

The anthem "Glory to Hong Kong," which sparked a police investigation after organizers played it in error at recent overseas sporting fixtures, was regularly sung by crowds of unarmed protesters during the 2019 protests, which ranged from peaceful mass demonstrations for full democracy to intermittent, pitched battles between “front-line” protesters and armed riot police.

ENG_CHN_JUNE4 LION ROCK_06032024.4.jpg
Chinese students shout after breaking through a police blockade during a pro-democracy march to Tiananmen Square, Beijing, May 4, 1989. (S. Mikami/AP)

The song calls for freedom and democracy rather than independence, but was nonetheless deemed in breach of the law due to its "separatist" intent, and was banned by court injunction last month.

"The people of Hong Kong will never forget June 4, 1989," one of the sign-holders, who gave only the surname Leung for fear of reprisals, said in the May 31 Facebook post. "Commemorating the Tiananmen massacre is part of our heritage and collective memory."

"Such activities aren't only about looking back at history, but also about our commitment to the values of freedom and democracy," the post said.

‘Careless word’

Leung said the climate of fear under the 2020 National Security Law and the Article 23 security legislation means that "even a careless word can get you into trouble" these days, if you live in Hong Kong.

"Hong Kong people no longer have freedom from fear," the post quoted him as saying.

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Pro-democracy demonstrators carry portraits of former Chinese rulers Mao Tse-Tung and Chou En-Lai as they march to join student strikers, May 18, 1989, at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China. (Sadayuki Mikami/AP)

Meanwhile, a newspaper in Hong Kong left most of its front page blank ahead of the 35th anniversary of the crackdown on the weeks-long pro-democracy protests of 1989.

The front page story on the Christian Times weekly newspaper's May 31 edition was left blank. In previous years, the newspaper has run a front page feature commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.

"Due to circumstances, we have been unable to publish the front page feature article," a message on the online version of the newspaper read. "We hope our readers can forgive us!"

In an editorial published alongside the blank front page, the paper said things have changed "dramatically" in Hong Kong in recent years, adding that "society has become more restrictive."

"Even prayers based on our memories of historical events could be a cause for concern," said the article, much of which had also been redacted.

Translated by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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