Thousands of protesters in Hong Kong held public vigils for the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on Thursday, despite police orders forbidding large gatherings.
On the evening of June 4, thousands took to the streets of Hong Kong to commemorate the anniversary of the 1989 massacre and to protest against new security laws being imposed on the region by the Chinese national legislature.
On June 4, 1989, as Chinese military fired on mass pro-democracy demonstrations by students in Tiananmen Square, killing at least hundreds and injuring thousands. Commemorations of the massacre are censored in the Chinese mainland, but annual vigils to remember the event have been held each year in Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.
A public vigil for the anniversary of the massacre had originally been planned to be held in Victoria Park on June 4, but police curtailed the event because of public health restrictions during the new coronavirus pandemic.
Thousands of people still climbed over police barriers into the park on Thursday evening, lighting candles and observing a moment of silence for the Tiananmen victims, according to the Hong Kong Free Press.
Elsewhere in Hong Kong, some protesters blocked streets and clashed with police, while others gathered in other parts of the city, chanting in favor of democracy and against security legislation that the Chinese national legislature is imposing on the region.
A spokesman for the diocese of Hong Kong told Catholic News Service that “special Masses” would be offered on the evening of June 4, and that the police order against the Victoria Park gathering “does not mean that there will be no vigil.”
According to the South China Morning Post, more than 3,000 riot officers were deployed in the city.
Hong Kong has enjoyed special administrative status as part of the “one country, two systems” agreement when the United Kingdom transferred control over the region to China in 1997, with its own legislature.
That status, democracy advocates have warned, is in jeopardy due to efforts by the Chinese national legislature to pass security bills imposing changes on the region without the consent of the Hong Kong legislature.
On May 27, bishop-emeritus of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen told CNA, “We have nothing good to hope for. Hong Kong is simply completely under [China’s] control. We depend on China even for our food and water. But we put ourselves in the hands of God.”
“We rely on help from heaven…from the human perspective, we have nothing to hope,” he said
Activists held large-scale pro-democracy demonstrations last year, protesting a law that would allow for extradition of alleged criminals to mainland China. The bill eventually was pulled from consideration by the Hong Kong legislature.