Hundreds of police officers were deployed at Victoria Park on Friday evening in anticipation of people showing up for the city’s annual Tiananmen Massacre vigil in defiance of a police ban.
The park’s six football pitches remained empty at 8pm – the usual starting time of the vigil – several hours after the area was first sealed off under strict public order laws by more than 200 police at around 2pm on Friday.
Hundreds of black-clad activists roamed the streets around the park holding electronic candles as police sought to disperse them, unfurling flags warning they were in breach of the law. Police widened their cordon around the park and kept people and onlookers moving.
Activist Raphael Wong of the League of Social Democrats was stopped and searched by police just before 8pm near the park.
Some people chanted pro-democracy slogans including “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times,” which the authorities say is illegal under the Beijing-imposed security law.
“At around 8pm on June 4, large amount of people congregated near Patterson Street and Kingston Street in Causeway Bay and Sai Yeung Choi Street South in Mong Kok,” a police statement said later. “There were protesters who shouted slogans that involved inciting and encouraging others to commit secession, which might have committed offences under the national security law.”
Police briefly created a cordon outside Causeway Bay MTR station after a scuffle broke out with an activist holding an electronic candle at about 7pm. Meanwhile, some activists played protest songs as others made a point of walking near the park.
Alexandra Wong or “Grandma Wong”, 65, was spotted near the Victoria Park fountain. Her appearance at the park comes just days after she was released without charge following her arrest by police on Sunday as she attempted to march – alone – from Wan Chai to the China Liaison Office with a yellow umbrella and a placard in her hands that read: “June 4th Tiananmen lament.”
“Perhaps it is possible I will be arrested again. Anyway I must come here, I must. Today is a very big day to remember the June 4th, the students before 32 years ago,” Wong said.
Dozens of police vehicles were seen parked along the nearby Causeway Road.
Officers also patrolled inside the park and in streets around Causeway Bay, stopping and searching pedestrians as they walked around the nearby streets holding electronic candles or phone lights.
For the second year in succession, the authorities have cited Covid-19 restrictions to ban a planned candlelight vigil in the park, an event which attracted tens of thousands of people each year between 1990 and 2019.
Carrying a bunch of white flowers in her hand, Lit Ming-wai said that even though she couldn’t enter Victoria Park, she wanted to walk around it to remind herself that she must “remember this day forever.”
“I actually really wanted to present a bouquet of flowers and pay attribute to the dead… even though I can’t, I still want to be here,” she said.
Ms Wong, 63, had showed up near the park holding a bouquet of white flowers and an electric candle in her hands. She said she was pregnant when Beijing cracked down on a student-led democracy movement. She said she had once skipped the vigil as she felt “disheartened,” but she later decided to continue the commemoration at the park as she “didn’t feel at peace” after missing it.
“My family doesn’t know that I’m here, I didn’t want them to be worried. But I have to come,” she told HKFP, adding that she did not think she would be arrested.
Police later asked her to leave the periphery of the football fields after five minutes.
Elsewhere in Victoria Park, Danny Chan, 30, made a sketch of the park security guards standing in front of him near the fountain as they held signs directing people to use other routes to access the swimming pool and tennis court.
Chan, who described himself as a “war zone artist,” said he never commemorated the Tiananmen crackdown but enjoyed watching others pay tribute as well as documenting “peaceful scenes” at a protest or demonstration.
Chan said he has always been cooperative with police in the past, but the medium he used for drawing changed throughout the 2019 protests as he had to prepare to “run quickly.”
“I used to paint with acrylic on a canvas… but considering I may have to run, I can only bring a small sketch book and pack as lightly as possible.”
At least four men and two women – aged 20 to 75 – have been arrested as of 10 pm on Friday, according to police on Facebook.
The offences they were accused of committing included inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly, common assault, criminal damage, disorderly behaviour in public and obstructing police.
Separately, police issued tickets to 12 people for allegedly breaching the Covid-19 gathering restrictions.
Alliance head arrested
The Tiananmen massacre took place on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations across 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.
Earlier in the day, students at the University of Hong Kong washed the “Pillar of Shame” – a monument to those killed.
The annual vigil was traditionally organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.
Police arrested the alliance’s vice-chairperson Chow Hang-tung and a 20-year-old man on Friday morning, saying that they allegedly publicised the event despite the police ban.
Additional reporting: Kelly Ho, Candice Chau, Tom Grundy.