Hong Kong’s Security Bureau has warned Hongkongers not to take part in this year’s Tiananmen Massacre vigil on June 4, or commemorative long-distance run this Sunday.

“The relevant meetings and procession are unauthorised assemblies. No one should take part in it, or advertise or publicise it, or else he or she may violate the law,” a statement said on Saturday.

tiananmen massacre vigil 2018 hong kong
Photo: Catherine Lai/HKFP.

Citing the Public Order Ordinance, the bureau warned that offenders face up to five years in prison for attending or a year in jail for promoting it.

It added that whether or not the event involved violence was not relevant: “If anyone attempts to challenge the law, including the Prohibition on Group Gathering, Public Order Ordinance, Hong Kong National Security Law, etc., the Police will deal with it seriously in accordance with the law.”

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.
File Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

It said offenders may also face charges under social distancing rules after police banned the rally citing the Covid-19 pandemic.

Appeal rejected

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.

The candlelight vigil at Victoria Park once attracted tens of thousands, a major event staged on Chinese soil to remember those killed when the pro-democracy protest was crushed. It was banned last year for the first time in 30 years, with authorities citing pandemic concerns. Thousands showed up anyway

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

Earlier on Saturday, organisers – the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – said police had rejected their appeal to hold the vigil this year.

“You can go down to the street and light a candle – that cannot be in any way against the law,” Alliance vice-chair Chow Hang-tung told HKFP earlier this week. “We are asking Hong Kong people to light a candle at 8 pm, wherever you are. It’s a different way of organising.”

Hong Kong government officials had hedged over the past month when asked whether the vigil could go ahead. Chief Executive Carrie Lam said it would depend on whether the vigil breaches the national security law, while Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said “everything that’s illegal is illegal” when asked by reporters if the vigil would be criminalised.

Hong Kong Alliance
The Alliance outside the District Court on May 5, 2021 after four activists, including Joshua Wong, were sentenced to jail for taking part in the banned Tiananmen Massacre vigil last year. Photo: Candice Chau/HKFP.

A total of 24 pro-democracy figures were charged with participating in and inciting others to participate in the unauthorised assembly after defying the police ban on the vigil. Four of them including Joshua Wong were handed jail terms after pleading guilty in early May, while others are awaiting sentencing.

The sweeping national security law imposed by Beijing last June 30, along with coronavirus restrictions, has virtually halted protests in Hong Kong after months of demonstrations and civic unrest in 2019.

Events resume

Daily cases of Covid-19 have been in the single digits for much of May. The city has seen 11,837 cases thus far and 210 deaths.

Last week, Chief Executive Carrie Lam said that the return of large-scale arts events showed “Hong Kong’s gradual return to normality,” with some social distancing rules recently relaxed.

big wave bay
This aerial view shows people at the beach at Big Wave Bay in Hong Kong on May 23, 2021. File photo: Peter Parks.

A music festival is set to take place in mid-June at the government’s West Kowloon Cultural District as well as a food festival at LOHAS Park.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.