Even as space for free expression and assembly in Hong Kong disappears under communist rule, some of the city’s people have taken the risk and continued the time-honored event of commemorating the June 4th Tiananmen Massacre that happened in Beijing 33 years ago.
Starting in the night of June 3, police stood watch at the entrances of Victoria Park on Hong Kong island, looking to prevent crowds from gathering.
In spring 1989, millions of people in cities around China had gathered to demand political reforms from the authoritarian Chinese Communist Party (CCP). But after a few critical weeks, the leadership decided to crack down, leading to the Tiananmen Massacre. In the streets of Beijing, soldiers and tanks killed thousands, with some internal reports suggesting 20,000 dead.
This did not go unnoticed in Hong Kong, which was then still a British colony. More than 1 million people in the city held a vigil for the Tiananmen Massacre victims.
The vigils continued even after Hong Kong was returned to Chinese rule in 1997.
But under the National Security Law (NSL) that Communist China imposed on Hong Kong two years ago, freedom of speech and assembly in the city have have been heavily restricted, with thousands seeing jail or prison sentences.
Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic further thinned out potential crowds, with just a few thousand braving the authorities for the June 4 events in 2020 and 2021.
This year, people protested in parts of Hong Kong despite the heavy police presence. Multiple people were questioned through the day.
One young woman wearing black held an iPad with an image of lit candles. According to Twitter user @Bryon_Wan, she was taken away by police for questioning and released shortly thereafter.
The diminishing freedoms in Hong Kong have drawn attention. The events commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre have seen renewed interest in Taiwan, where the population also faces the threat of communist takeover as Beijing vows to “recover” the democratically governed island.