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Police patrol Hong Kong park to enforce ban on Tiananmen vigil

HONG KONG – Dozens of police officers patrolled Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Saturday after authorities banned the public commemoration of the anniversary of the deadly Tiananmen Square raid in 1989 for the third straight year.

for decades, an annual candlelight vigil was held in the park to commemorate the violent repression by army forces of student protesters who were protesting in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 demanding more democracy. Hundreds if not thousands were killed.

The ban is seen as part of a measure eradicate political dissent and a sign that Hong Kong is losing its freedoms as Beijing consolidates its grip on the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

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The organizers of the vigilthe Hong Kong alliance in support of China’s patriotic pro-democracy movements, disbanded last year after many of its leaders were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law imposed after massive pro-democracy protests in 2019.

Authorities have cited risks from the coronavirus for the ban on public commemoration for the past three years. Critics say the pandemic is being used as an excuse to violate the right to assemble.

A government statement on Friday said parts of Victoria Park, traditionally used as the venue for the candlelight vigil, will be closed as it may be used for “illegal activities”. The move was to prevent “unauthorized gatherings” at the park and reduce the possibility of spreading COVID-19.

Earlier in the week, a police superintendent warned that anyone who appears in a group “in the same place, at the same time and with the common goal of expressing certain views” could be considered part of an unauthorized gathering.

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Since Britain handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, the city has been governed under a “one country, two systems” framework that gives it freedoms not found on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.

For years, Hong Kong and Macau were the only places on Chinese soil allowed to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown. In China, buzzwords like “Tiananmen massacre” and “4. June” is strictly censored online, and people are not allowed to publicly flag the events.

Hong Kong’s crackdown on the Tiananmen Square commemorations has drawn international criticism.

“Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to resonate in Hong Kong, where the annual Tiananmen Square massacre commemoration vigil has been banned by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities to quash memories of the day,” the US Secretary said Minister of State Antony Blinken in a statement referring to the People’s Republic of China.

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Blinken said the US would continue to speak out and promote accountability on China’s human rights abuses, including those in Hong Kong, against Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang region as well as in Tibet.

“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and strive for freedom, we will not forget June 4,” he said.

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote on its Facebook page, “When this season comes, there are many things that cannot be said, many things that cannot be written, and many things that cannot even be looked up on the Internet. ”

The post encouraged Chinese citizens who use a VPN to access Facebook, which is blocked in China, to search for information about the Tiananmen Square massacre “to see what their country is hiding from them.”

“We hope that individuals will no longer be sacrificed for the party and that freedom, democracy and human rights can become our common language with them,” the ministerial post said.

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Amid Hong Kong’s ban on events, overseas gatherings and seminars in the US, Taipei, Prague and elsewhere have gained prominence, with online appeals encouraging people to attend.

In recent years, institutions including universities have also removed sculptures and artworks marking the Tiananmen Square massacre to comply with a strict national security law Beijing imposed on the city in June 2020.

Authorities have used the law to crack down on opposition, with over 150 people arrested on suspicion of crimes including subversion, secession, terrorism and foreign collusion to interfere in the city’s affairs.

In December 2021, a sculpture called “Pillar of Shame”, depicting torn and twisted bodies symbolizing the lives lost during the massacre was dismantled at the University of Hong Kong. Officials said no permit had been obtained to display the sculpture.

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A day later, two other universities in the city removed monuments related to the commemoration of the Tiananmen Square massacre, citing similar reasons as well as legal issues.

Last week, Jens Galschioet, the artist who created Pillar of Shame, unveiled a full-scale replica of the 8-meter (26-foot) tall sculpture at the University of Oslo in Norway.

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/04/police-patrol-hong-kong-park-amid-tiananmen-vigil-ban/ Police patrol Hong Kong park to enforce ban on Tiananmen vigil

Sarah Y. Kim

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