Arrests in Hong Kong on Tiananmen Anniversary

More restrictions at Victoria Park . . .

Six people were arrested on June 4 near Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, where annual candlelight vigils commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4, 1989, were held until COVID-19 restrictions were enacted in 2020. This year, parts of Victoria Park were blocked off, with police citing concerns over potential “illegal activity.” The six individuals were arrested on separate occasions and for different reasons, including obstruction of justice and possession of weapons. Those arrested were also allegedly engaged in “acts of resistance,” including wearing faces masks with “Never forget June fourth” in Chinese characters, reading aloud poems related to the 1989 crackdown, and peeling potatoes in an art performance.

Support for democracy or political tricks?

While the annual vigil was not held this year on the 33rd anniversary of the massacre, near Victoria Park that evening, people shone their phone flashlights in defiance of the park closures and continuing restrictions on gatherings of more than four people. Several Western consulates in Hong Kong – including Canada’s – commemorated the massacre by lighting candles in the windows of their offices. In response, the Commissioner’s Office of China’s Foreign Ministry in Hong Kong claimed the actions to be “political tricks.” It urged such foreign missions to “stop the botched political performances based on ideological differences.”

Commemorations go global . . .

The arrests over the weekend shine a light on China’s continued crackdown on Hong Kong, using the National Security Law enacted in 2020. In the months leading up to June 4 this year, statues commemorating Tiananmen were removed from various locations across the city, including the Goddess of Democracy at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Pillar of Shame at Hong Kong University. Despite vigil bans in Hong Kong and Mainland China, crowds gathered to commemorate the incident globally, including in Canadian cities such as Toronto and Vancouver. With dissent markedly more difficult in Hong Kong, protests by the overseas diaspora are taking on a new significance in remembering Tiananmen.