commemorations as Hongkongers arrested over candles, clothes, slogans
Several people – among them prominent activists – were led away by police on Sunday afternoon, as officers deployed around Victoria Park, the former site of the Tiananmen vigil, following four arrests on Saturday.
By Honk Kong Free Press
June 5, 2023
Chair of the League of Social Democrats Chan Po-ying is taken by police in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Veteran activist Grandma Wong is taken away by police in Causeway Bay on June 4, 2023, the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Three other people were escorted away by police soon after, also in Hong Kong Island’s shopping district.
Police in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023, the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
LSD chair Chan was taken away in a police vehicle after being stopped in the area. She was holding a yellow flower. The party later told reporters that Chan had been released from Wan Chai Police Station at 9.15pm, adding that police had said they would need to conduct further investigations and Chan had been released without bail terms.
A woman is escorted away by police in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Journalist Mak Yin-ting, former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, was taken away by the police after being stopped on Great George Street.
Leo Tang, a former vice-chairperson of the pro-democracy coalition of unions the Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions, was taken away by the police. Tang was wearing a black T-shirt printed with the Wen Wei Po headline from its 1989 report about the Tiananmen crackdown.
Former member of the the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Tsui Hong-kwong was placed in a police vehicle after carrying an electric candle on the street in Causeway Bay. Tang later posted to Facebook to say he had been taken to Wan Chai Police Station to assist with police investigations.
A man wearing a black Tiananmen crackdown remembrance t-shirt was escorted into a police van at around 7.20pm. Police told HKFP he would be held for questioning.
Outside Victoria Park, a man who was sitting on a bench holding a candle was taken by police officers to a police van.
Near the water fountain in Victoria Park, a woman in a black T-shirt was taken away by police, who held her hands and legs while she was escorted to a police vehicle. She yelled “I want to go home” and “will every June 4 be like this?” Before being apprehended, she sat on the ground. Officers told her that if she did not cooperate, she would be arrested for obstructing police.
A person who gave their name as Chan, who had witnessed the woman being taken away, told HKFP that police surrounded her after she displayed a photo of a candle on her phone and requested to conduct and stop and search. The woman tried to leave but was stopped by a group of officers.
Also near the Victoria Park fountain, a middle-aged man with a hearing aid and an electronic candle which shone red at its tip was taken to a police vehicle.
Earlier on Sunday, a number of passers by were stopped and checked under a green canopy tent set up by police on Great George Street, near to Exit E of the Causeway Bay MTR station, the closest exit to Victoria Park.
It was not only people who were apprehended. A Porsche with a license plate “US 8964,” the date of the Tiananmen crackdown, was seen driving through Causeway Bay on Sunday evening before being impounded. The owner of the car said in a public Facebook group that the officers cited his car’s embossed license plate and brake as reasons to impound the vehicle.
HKFP has reached out to police for further details.
Some mainland Chinese tourists took photos of the police and the tents. Three of them, all born in the 1990s, said they had no idea what was going on. When told it was related to the Tiananmen crackdown, one told HKFP they would search for it on Chinese social media apps Baidu and Xiao Hong Shu. Terms linked to the 1989 crackdown are heavily censored in mainland China.
A Chinese-made Sabertooth armoured vehicle was parked outside the SOGO mall in Causeway Bay along with four police vans. Rolled out last year and with an estimated HK$12.7 million price tag, it attracted passers by to stop for pictures.
No official commemoration
On Saturday, police arrested four people and held another four for questioning, after activists and artists seeking to mark the anniversary were apprehended by officers in Causeway Bay.
It is the fourth year where no official commemorations have been scheduled, and the first since Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. The police rejected applications to hold the annual, mass candlelight vigils in Victoria Park in 2020 and 2021 citing pandemic-related health concerns.
Before the pandemic and the implementation of the 2020 security law, Hong Kong was one of the only places on Chinese soil where public mourning of the crackdown was permitted. In June 2019, then-leader Carrie Lam said the vigils were “proof that Hong Kong is a free place. But, last month, top officials would not clearly state whether commemorations were still legal.
The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989, ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army dispersed protesters in Beijing.
Since the vigil organiser – the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – disbanded in September 2021, no other organisations have stepped up to organise the vigils.
The 34th anniversary of the crackdown marks the first time since 2021 that the police did not cordon off Victoria Park. This year, instead of candlelight, the park is half-filled with stalls and shoppers as pro-Beijing groups hold a market – visitors must undergo security checks and pay HK$5 by Octopus card only. Last Monday, organising spokesperson Tang Ching-ho said the timing of the event was “just a coincidence.”
Similar to last year, other parts of the football fields were closed by the government “for maintenance.”
The US and EU consuls in Hong Kong displayed candles in their windows on Sunday night to remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown. The move is often blasted by Beijing and has been cited by China as “evidence” of foreign interference in a 6,300-word “factsheet.”
Since the Hong Kong Christian Patriotic Democratic Movement disbanded in 2021, no organisation has issued a petition over the Tiananmen crackdown to the government.
However, 360 individuals, including co-organiser of the Umbrella Movement, Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, signed a prayer petition that was published in the Christian Times on Sunday.
“Thirty-four years of historical trauma will be diluted by time and forgotten under great pressure, we still persist in keeping watch and mourning,” the petition read. “Only with the power and execution of love can the tragedy of history can be resolved.”
Mong Kok’s AsOne store, run by ex-pro-democracy district councillor Derek Chu, was distributing electronic candles earlier on Sunday. Chu, who told HKFP that he had been questioned by police about his plans, said he would not do any media interviews.
At his store, he was reading the script of the Tiananmen-related drama “May 35” by playwright Candice Chong. He previously told HKFP that – over the past two days – the store saw government inspectors visit from the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Audit Commission and the Fire Services Department. The latter visited the store three times in one day, citing public complaints, Chu said.
Another store in Sai Kung also saw officials visit from four different government departments in the days following a Tiananmen candle giveaway. Each department claimed they were making routine inspections or responding to complaints, when contacted by HKFP.