A stage invasion by Hong Kong independence activists at Saturday’s Victoria Park Tiananmen massacre vigil received mixed reactions from different localist political groups.
Several minutes before the commencement of the vigil at 8pm, around a dozen activists, wielding colonial Hong Kong flags and banners, attempted to storm the main stage. One activist seized the microphone, shouting “we don’t want a democratic China, we want Hong Kong independence – we need to take care of ourselves” before being removed by event organisers amid scuffles.
Others continued to speak to the public behind the stage for around an hour, surrounded by a large contingent of police.
The activist who successfully mounted the stage was named as Simon Sin, a 23 year-old former member of Internet-based group Hong Kong Localism Power, according to Stand News. Sin later alleged that he was assaulted by event staff, saying he was “pinched on his arm, seized by his neck, and received blows to his rear”.
Hong Kong Localism Power, however, condemned the incident. “Everyone has the right to choose to identify with a country, and we will not force Hong Kongers to deny they are Chinese,” said Chairman Jonathan Ho Chi-kwong in a statement. “We believe that this was a malicious attempt to instigate conflict,” Ho concluded.
Last year, the group attempted to disrupt a forum held at Victoria Park on the afternoon of June 4, prior to the vigil. In the same Facebook post, Ho apologised for the group’s past actions.
Following the stage invasion, a 24 year-old man was arrested by police on charges of obstructing public officers, and was released on bail shortly before midnight. Members of localist political organisation Civic Passion demonstrated outside North Point Police Station, where he was held. They criticised the event staff for their “violent” removal of the stage invaders, and questioned the vigil organisers’ commitment to peaceful forms of protest.
Vigil organiser Albert Ho Chun-yan expressed regret over the incident, and said that storming the stage was not an appropriate method of communication. He said he hoped that the incident would not repeat itself in the future.
The Victoria Park candlelight vigil was attended by a reported 125,000 people, a decrease of 10,000 from the previous year and the lowest turnout since 2008. It is organised annually on June 4 by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, a group founded at the height of the student demonstrations in Beijing in May 1989.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 4, 2016
In recent years, the event has come under increasing criticism, especially from localist groups, for its perceived Chinese patriotic stance and lack of political impact. Alternative June 4th commemorative events were held this year at the University of Hong Kong, the Chinese University of Hong Kong and various other locations in the city.
Localist groups are pro-democracy but many consider traditional democratic activists and pan-democrats within the legislature to be ineffective. The camp is also tied with various movements related to the expansion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, for example advocating for city-state status or outright independence.