Hong Kong officials have, for the second year, banned a vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, citing public health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department has suspended processing applications from all organisations “across the board” for the leasing of its facilities for non-designated uses, a spokesperson told HKFP on Wednesday.

candle tiananmen vigil june 4 victoria park 2020
Photo: Kaiser/United Social Press.

He said the department has not rejected the application to hold the event on June 4 but did not give a timeline for when processing of the request would resume: “In response to the latest situation of Covid-19, the department has suspended processing of booking applications for free recreational and sports venues for non-designated activities until further notice,” an LCSD statement read.

The department said it has informed the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organised the vigil between 1990 and 2019. It was the only such commemoration to be held on Chinese soil.

Hong Kong’s fourth wave of coronavirus infections has remained at low levels and the situation is “generally stable,” according to the Secretary for Food and Health on Wednesday. More relaxed social distancing rules for vaccinated people go into force on Thursday.

The LCSD, meanwhile, is set to gradually resume community sports and recreational programmes from next Monday.

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 cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

Banned vigil

The candlelight vigil, held annually at Victoria Park and attracting thousands, was banned for the first time in 30 years last year, with authorities citing pandemic concerns. Thousands showed up anyway to commemorate victims of the massacre of pro-democracy demonstrators.

Twenty-six pro-democracy figures have since been charged with participating and inciting others to participate in the unauthorised assembly last year.

tiananmen massacre vigil 31st 2020 june 4 victoria park
Photo: Studio Incendo.

Organisers of this year’s vigil have formally asked police to issue a letter of no objection to the event.

Earlier on Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said a decision on allowing the event to go ahead would depend on whether activities contravene the national security law.

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“It much depends on what is going to happen in those gatherings and whether they will fall into the offences expressly prohibited in the national security law — that is involved in secession, subversion of the Central government and the Hong Kong SAR government, engaging in terrorist activities or collusion with an external party to endanger national security,” Lam said.

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Rhoda Kwan is HKFP's Assistant Editor. She has previously written for TimeOut Hong Kong and worked at Meanjin, a literary journal. She holds a double bachelor’s degree in Law and Literature from the University of Hong Kong.