Hong Kong's Tiananmen Vigil Organizers Say Police Won't Allow Event Due to COVID Guidelines

For the second year in a row, authorities in Hong Kong have banned citizens from gathering on June 4 to mark the anniversary of 1989's Chinese government crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square, the Associated Press reported.

Last year the vigil was banned because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands still turned up at Victoria Park to sing and light candles. Arrests were not made at the time, but some were arrested in connection with the vigil later.

Hong Kong's security minister, John Lee, told civilians not to take part in any assemblies on June 4, as it is a violation of the national security law.

Organizers for this year's vigil have told people to light a candle no matter where they are on June 4.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Activists
Pro-democracy activists demonstrate outside the West Kowloon court in Hong Kong on November 3, 2020, as pro-democracy media mogul Jimmy Lai, facing charges of inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing earlier this June 4, attends a hearing. Peter Parks/Getty Images

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organizes the candlelight vigil annually, said in a statement that the police had objected to the event because of social distancing restrictions, which prohibit large gatherings.

For years, Hong Kong and Macao 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 semi-autonomous Chinese 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 penalize crimes such as secession and subversion.

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.

Last year, more than 20 people, including activist Joshua Wong, media tycoon Jimmy Lai and Lee Cheuk-yan, a leader of the alliance, were arrested later and charged with taking part in an unauthorized assembly. Wong and three district councilors were sentenced on May 6 to between four and 10 months in jail after pleading guilty.

Organizers this year have urged people to light a candle no matter where they are on June 4.

Separately, security minister Lee on Thursday also confirmed that he had sent letters to companies that managed assets for Lai, the founder of the Apple Daily newspaper, warning them against dealing with Lai's property.

Lai is currently in prison for taking part in unauthorized assemblies and is also being investigated under the national security law for alleged collusion with foreign powers to intervene in the city's affairs.

"As regards my written notice to companies and institutions regarding property which are offenses-related property under the National Security Law, I am exercising the power, because Lai has been charged with two offenses of collusion with other countries, or external forces to endanger national security," he said.

"It is my duty to specify in my notice to the relevant parties what will be the consequences if they fail to comply with my direction."

Tiananmen Vigil Hong Kong
FILE-In this Tuesday, June 4, 2019, file photo, thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government's brutal military crackdown three decades ago on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. Hong Kong authorities for the second year have banned the June 4 candlelight vigil to commemorate the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, organizers said Thursday, May 27, 2021. Vincent Yu/Associated Press