June 4 marked the 33rd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. It was also the third night without keeping vigil in Hong Kong, breaking the longstanding tradition of honoring those who fell in the 1989 tragedy.
On June 2, 48 hours ahead of the annual commemoration day, the Hong Kong police force warned Hongkongers against inciting or participating in unauthorized assembly at or near Victoria Park on June 4. It stressed that even if a person were alone and did not physically appear at the park, he or she could still be interpreted as taking part in illegal assembly and face a maximum of five-year term of imprisonment.
Suppression of June 4 memory
Reuter correspondent James Pomfret showed what the park looked like on June 4:
Just a regular day in the park #HongKong #June4 #China #HongKongProtests pic.twitter.com/dRTgXfJou1
— James Pomfret (@jamespomfret) June 4, 2022
Former Apple Daily News columnist Jack Hazlewood, compared the park's view on June 4 in 2019 and 2022:
2019 vs 2022.#六四 #Tiananmen pic.twitter.com/lPWaH2lVf9
— Jack Hazlewood (@JackHHazlewood) June 4, 2022
Since 1990, Hong Kong has held an annual candlelight vigil to commemorate and condemn the bloody crackdown of 1989 pro-democracy student protests in Beijing. This ended in 2020 as the city government banned the annual ritual, citing pandemic control measures. But some defied the ban and brought their own candles to the park, leading to the arrest of more than 24 prominent activists, who were accused of inciting, organizing, and participating in an illegal assembly.
In 2021, the vigil was banned again for the same reason. The police sealed off the park, but some citizens insisted on wearing black and lighting candles on the outskirts of the park.
Three months later, in September, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (HK Alliance), the host of the three-decades-long June 4 vigil, announced its disbandment after its leaders Lee Cheuk-Yan, Albert Ho, and Chow Hang-Tung were charged with “incitement to subversion”, and media outlets were forbidden to report on the committal proceedings of the trial due to reporting restrictions under the National Security Law.
In addition, all major monuments in the city that reminded Hongkongers of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre were demolished in 2021, including the Pillar of Shame at the Hong Kong University, the Goddess of Democracy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and the Tiananmen Massacre Relief at the Lingnan University.
This year, the Hong Kong Police Force extended the interpretation of unauthorized assembly as people sharing a common purpose, regardless of the size of the public gatherings and participants’ whereabouts.
Mini-acts of remembering
Despite heavy police presence around Victoria Park, decentralized acts of public commemoration were still visible.
[Recap] In Pictures: High security and mini acts of defiance as Hong Kong seeks to thwart Tiananmen crackdown commemorationshttps://t.co/30TdVe8Hbx
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) June 4, 2022
Avery Ng, former chairperson of the pro-democracy political party League of Social Democrats (LSD), who was convicted of participating in unauthorized assembly and freshly released from a 14-month jail sentence, posted his fellow party members’ public act of commemoration at Causeway Bay:
— 吳文遠 Avery Ng (@ManYuen_Ng) June 4, 2022
Keep on doing the right thing.
Thanks to the current pandemic control measures, any public gathering with more than four people can be subjected to a fine of 5,000 Hong Kong dollars per person [approximately 640 United States dollars]. The organizer of the gathering can be subjected to a maximum penalty of a HK $25,000 fine [about US $3,200] and a six-month jail time. Most people acted alone or in a small group. However, signs that may suggest a “common purpose” of the June 4 unauthorized assembly, like words on a T-shirt, a flower, or a car plate, were hence subjected to harassment:
Police briefly detained three people, including a woman wearing a t-shirt with “You cannot fight against the future” on the back.
Officers warned that the t-shirt may constitute unlawful assembly, according to one of the women.
“I don't understand it either,” she said. pic.twitter.com/ypfwuV569U
— Holmes Chan (@holmeschan_) June 4, 2022
Released after search the man said police warned him not to do anything to attract people to gather. He criticised police of infringing his individual freedom as he had not done anything illegal other than passing by with a white chrysanthemum. pic.twitter.com/mLTSi8TJqP
— Xinqi Su 蘇昕琪 (@XinqiSu) June 4, 2022
Near Victoria Park, a group of police officers stopped a private vehicle with a car plate that reminded people of June 4, 1989:
“Boss… what should we do?”#HongKong pic.twitter.com/DW5f8d7SeM
— Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong. 重光團隊 (@Stand_with_HK) June 5, 2022
Reportedly, six individuals were arrested on charges that included inciting and participating in unauthorized assembly, possession of offensive weapons, and obstructing a police officer.
As there is little space left for public commemoration, many lit their candles at home and posted on social media instead. Signs were everywhere:
I am having a normal Saturday
Taking the train to meet friends pic.twitter.com/l9imNbMPRg
— AP 🇭🇰 (@gongnui) June 4, 2022
A number of foreign consulates joined Hongkongers’ commemoration acts with window-side candlelight:
In commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the #TiananmenSquare crackdown on #June4 1989. The European Union always stands in solidarity with human rights defenders across the globe. pic.twitter.com/Kyn8INVEPJ
— European Union Office to Hong Kong and Macao (@EUinHKandMO) June 4, 2022
The Polish Consulate General's post about its country's candle production capacity won a round of applause on Facebook:
Meanwhile, Poland’s mission shared a more subtle tribute – infographics on the country’s candle-making tradition. https://t.co/FgZ65Vu71X pic.twitter.com/VLkWEH8AWs
— Hong Kong Free Press HKFP (@hkfp) June 4, 2022
Candlelight around the world
While the vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park has vanished, other candlelight vigils have spread, with more than two dozen cities around the world holding commemoration activities.
In the Chinese speaking world, Taipei has stepped into Hong Kong's role in preserving the history of the Tiananmen Massacre:
Liberty Square, Taipei, the only place in the Chinese speaking world where anniversary memorial events for the Tiananmen Square massacre 1989 is now allowed to be held, is filling up. pic.twitter.com/qYCPgY8Oz9
— Jojje Olsson (@jojjeols) June 4, 2022
In London, the commemorative event took place outside the Chinese embassy:
Brief road blocking protest in front of the Chinese Embassy in London at the Tiananmen Massacre commemoration event pic.twitter.com/JmiWpUtqmy
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) June 4, 2022
Meanwhile, the diaspora Hongkonger group Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong projected images of the bloody crackdown on London Bridge:
Ahead of the annual commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre today, @thecfhk lit up the Tower of London to honour the anniversary #TiananmenVigil2022 pic.twitter.com/9ceytQLsys
— Committee for Freedom in Hong Kong (@thecfhk) June 3, 2022
Despite efforts to quell commemoration, the world remembers.