Arrests, massive police deployment in Hong Kong to deter Tiananmen vigil

By Riyaz ul Khaliq

ANKARA (AA) – An uneasy calm prevails in Hong Kong as thousands of police patrolled the streets to enforce a ban on the annual vigil for victims of China’s crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.

Authorities arrested two people early on Friday on “suspicion of appealing to others to join” the now-banned mass vigil at the popular Victoria Park, public broadcaster RTHK reported.

Chow Hang-tung, vice chair of the group that organizes the annual vigil, and a 20-year-old food courier were arrested for using “their social media accounts to advertise or publicize a public meeting that had been prohibited by the police,” according to detective senior superintendent Terry Law.

Refusing to detail the content of the social media posts, Law termed their actions “extremely irresponsible as people who had listened to their alleged appeals would have been in trouble too.”

Spooked by mass anti-government agitation in 2019, this is the second year running that China has barred people in Hong Kong from holding any kind of remembrance of the events of 1989.

However, thousands defied the order in 2020 and turned out at Victoria Park, leading to authorities ramping up security measures this year.

Some 7,000 cops have been deployed throughout Hong Kong, with some 3,000 manning areas around Victoria Park, parts of which have been sealed off because police said they were still seeing online appeals for people to gather there despite the ban, RTHK reported.

The 1989 student-led protests started on April 15 and were forcibly suppressed on June 4 when the Chinese government sent the military to gain control of Tiananmen Square. Nearly 300 people died and 7,000 were injured, including soldiers.

Hong Kong authorities also temporarily shut the June 4th Museum built in memory of the Tiananmen victims.

A closing notice issued by the notice on Wednesday said Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department officers inspected the museum and found the operators were violating the “Places of Public Entertainment Ordinance.”

– ‘Misplaced focus’

“The Chinese authority actually misplaces the focus and puts too much weight in defending the government’s authority, instead of [catering to] the people’s emotional and material needs,” Chien-Yu Shih, a Taiwanese academic who earlier taught in Hong Kong, said in a conversation with Anadolu Agency.

He said the people and society of Hong Kong have “entirely lost confidence in the current Hong Kong government.”

“With regards to the annual commemoration and vigil of June 4, the Hong Kong government should have talked to the organizers and set out rules and conditions for holding the event,” he said.

“If so, that will demonstrate that ‘One Country, Two Systems’ is still working and Hong Kong is still different from mainland China, where June 4 is a political taboo,” the academic added, referring to the governance model under which China has ruled Hong Kong since the end of British rule in 1997.