Hong Kong police detained 23 people on June 4, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, as activists attempted to hold an annual vigil in Victoria Park. The event has been banned by authorities for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 concerns. Despite this, many Hong Kong residents still visited the park to light candles in remembrance of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of protestors who were killed or injured during the peaceful protests in Beijing in 1989.
China has been tightening its grip on Hong Kong, passing national security laws that critics say undermine the city’s autonomy and rights. This has led to a growing divide between mainland China and Hong Kongers, who increasingly fear they are losing their freedoms. The crackdown on the anniversary vigil is just one example of how dissent is being silenced in Hong Kong.
The Washington Post reported that the anniversary “provides a picture of repression in Hong Kong.” While police have not yet announced any charges, the fact that they detained so many people on such a sensitive occasion is a clear indication that dissent is not welcome in the city. The BBC reported that some of those arrested were prominent democracy activists, further worrying human rights advocates who see this as another step towards China’s authoritarian rule.
As South China Morning Post highlighted, there is a need for greater clarity on how to legally mark the June 4 anniversary. With the current political climate in Hong Kong, it seems likely that those who wish to remember the events of 1989 will continue to face legal and physical roadblocks. The crackdown on this year’s vigil underscores the need for the international community to pay attention to the situation in Hong Kong and speak out against those who seek to silence dissent.