Foreign media outlets have come under attack by the leader of Hong Kong over the way they report ”so-called peaceful” protests and demonstrations in the city.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that supposedly peaceful assemblies in the city have been “abused” and that reporting on them by foreign media has disregarded the city’s commitment to the rule of law.

Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“So-called peaceful assemblies have been abused. Every time after courts made rulings on illegal assemblies, foreign media would go so far as to publish statements saying that expressing political demands through peaceful assemblies is not a crime,” said Lam.

“This disregards the fact that Hong Kong is a place with rule of law and violates their [the foreign media’s] own principles of rule of law,” she added. The Hong Kong leader did not specify which foreign media or statements she was referring to.

Twenty-four pro-democracy activists were charged with either organising, participating in or inciting others to take part in an unauthorised assembly on June 4 last year. Activists Joshua Wong, former district councillors Lester Shum, Tiffany Yuen, and Jannelle Leung were sentenced to between four and 10 months in prison last Thursday

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

The chief executive did not directly address a question about whether or not Hong Kong’s annual June 4 vigil, its main organisers the Civil Human Rights Front and the Hong Kong Alliance, or pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily will be outlawed under the city’s national security law amid calls to do so by state-owned media.

“My answer will be, we will act according to the law. It depends on which law it is and it is not the chief executive’s job to interpret the law, that is the court’s job. And then, we have to look at the evidence and the defences,” Lam said.

“Whenever something happened and violated the law, the law enforcement agencies will take action, prosecuting departments will make a decision and submit it to court,” she added.

Banned again

For two years in a row, Hong Kong authorities banned a vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, citing public health concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hong Kong Alliance urged people to “light a candle wherever you are” at 8 p.m. on June 4 to commemorate the victims of the massacre on its 32nd anniversary.

The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

The candlelight vigil, which is held annually at Victoria Park and attracts tens of thousands of people, was banned for the first time in 30 years last year, also due to concerns over the pandemic. Thousands showed up anyway

Hong Kong is one of the few places in Greater China where Tiananmen massacre vigils are held in public.

The killings on June 4, 1989 ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing.


Selina Cheng

Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.