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Despite Ban, Hongkongers Gather to Mourn Tiananmen Massacre

Leo Timm covers China-related news, culture, and history. Follow him on Twitter at @kunlunpeaks
Published: June 4, 2022
Veteran member of The League of Social Democrats (LSD) So Lau Shan-ching (C) is arrested in the Causeway Bay district of Hong Kong on June 4, 2022, near the venue where Hong Kong people have traditionally gathered to mourn victims of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, on the 33rd anniversary of the event. (Image: CHARLOTTE MACHADO/AFP via Getty Images)

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.

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Police officers stop and search pedestrians at Victoria Park, the traditional site of the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil, on June 04, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)
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A general view of Victoria Park, the traditional site of the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil, on June 04, 2022 in Hong Kong, China. In previous years, thousands had gathered in the park to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre in Beijing. (Image: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images)

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.

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Scenes show people gathering to protest near Hong Kong’s Victoria Park as police guard for those who would attempt to publicly mourn the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. (Image: @BryonWan/via Twitter)

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 woman holds an iPad with illustrations of a candlelight vigil mourning the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre. (Image: @Bryon_Wan/via Twitter)

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.

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