Hong Kong authorities have for the second year banned the candlelit vigil commemorating the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, organisers have said.
Police had objected to the event because of social distancing restrictions, which prohibit large gatherings, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises event every year on 4 June, said on Thursday.
For years, Hong Kong and Macau were the only cities in China where people were allowed to mark the 1989 anniversary of Beijing’s crushing of the Chinese democracy movement.
The ban on the vigil comes as Beijing has tightened control over the city after months of anti-government protests in 2019.
Beijing and local authorities have cracked down on dissenting voices, conducted mass arrests of pro-democracy activists and imposed a sweeping national security law to penalise crimes such as secession and subversion.
Hong Kong’s security minister, John Lee, warned residents not to organise or take part in unauthorised assemblies on 4 June because they could be violating the national security law.
Last year, the vigil was banned for the first time, with police citing public health risks from the coronavirus pandemic. Still, thousands turned up at Victoria Park – where the vigil is held each year – singing songs and lighting candles. No arrests were made at the time.
More than 20 people, including activist Joshua Wong, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan, a leader of the alliance, were later arrested and charged with taking part in an unauthorised assembly. Wong and three district councillors were sentenced on 6 May to between four and 10 months in jail after pleading guilty.
Organisers this year have urged people to light a candle no matter where they are on 4 June.
On Thursday, the legislature passed a bill amending electoral laws that drastically reduces the public’s ability to vote, while increasing the number of pro-Beijing lawmakers making decisions for the city.
Separately, security minister Lee on Thursday also confirmed that he had sent letters to companies that manage assets for Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, warning them against dealing with Lai’s property.
Lai is in prison for taking part in unauthorised assemblies and is also being investigated under the national security law for alleged collusion with foreign powers to intervene in the city’s affairs.