Hong Kongers Defied a Ban on the Tiananmen Square Massacre Vigil

For the first time in 30 years, Hong Kong banned a vigil for the massacre because of coronavirus. Some worry it could set a precedent.
June 8, 2020, 4:06pm

HONG KONG — Victoria Park is the only place on Chinese soil that sees an open commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre every year. This year, for the first time in 30 years, Hong Kong authorities banned the vigil. But thousands showed up anyway.

This year’s prohibition was over coronavirus concerns, but Hong Kongers are worried it could set a precedent. Especially because at the end of May, the Communist Party took a stab at Hong Kong’s autonomy, bypassing the territory’s legislature to outlaw acts of subversion against the state.

“We don’t know if this is the last year that we can publicly memorialize the June 4 massacre,” Joseph Li, a teacher, told VICE News. “People are worried that once the Hong Kong National Security Law passes, their personal safety and freedom of expression will be hampered.”

Li was in junior high school in 1989 when he heard the military massacred student protesters in Beijing.

“Everyone was hoping for the country to become less corrupt, for less political corruption. They were fighting for democracy and freedom.” Li said. “Unfortunately, the totalitarian regime wanted to safeguard their political power.”

Li never missed a vigil since, but now he and other Hong Kongers worry the Communist Party, which goes to extreme lengths to hide the truth about the massacre in the mainland, wants to wipe out the memory of Tiananmen in Hong Kong, too.

The international community is sounding the alarm about the future of a free Hong Kong as well. Last week, the UK announced it would offer residents of its former colony born before the 1997 handover to China a visa that could open a pathway to citizenship. Some American lawmakers are pushing for similar accommodations.

“We’ve thought about leaving Hong Kong, because we are so worried about the National Security Law.” Karen Ho, a vigil participant, told VICE News.

“Many Hong Kongers are worried and distrubed, but I insist on coming to this assembly, because it may be the last opportunity.”

Shot by Stanley Leung, Edited by Kristie Ferriso.

Cover: A woman lights candles at the vigil for protesters killed in Tiananmen Square