A Hong Kong Catholic group will not hold masses to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown this year, citing fears over the Beijing-imposed national security law.
The Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office told HKFP on Tuesday that some staff and members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese had expressed concern about this year’s remembrance services.
Masses have traditionally been held on the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown at several of the city’s Catholic churches to commemorate those who died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died.
“Because frontline staff and some of the members of the Justice and Peace Commission of The Hong Kong Catholic Diocese are concerned about whether holding this event will be in breach of the implemented national security law, therefore [we] won’t hold a June 4th commemoration mass,” the office said.
“According to the Catholic faith, there can be different ways to commemorate those who died. Holding masses are of course one of the means, but praying for those who died in private or in small groups is very meaningful as well.”
While Hong Kong was one of very few places in China where the crackdown could be openly discussed, the city’s annual candlelight vigils and other efforts to honour the victims had been cracked down on by authorities citing Covid-19 health concerns in the past two years.
The organiser of the city’s annual Tiananmen vigils, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, disbanded last September following a members’ vote.
The group, along with three of its former leaders – former lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho, and barrister Chow Hang-tung – have been charged under the sweeping security legislation for alleged incitement to subversion.
Pro-democracy figures including media tycoon Jimmy Lai and journalist-turned-activist Gwyneth Ho, have been jailed for organising, taking part in, or inciting others to participate in the 2020 banned vigil.
The national security law criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The government has not said whether commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown would be in violation of the legislation.
When asked by HKFP whether the police would allow commemoration events to be held this year in light of loosened Covid-19 restrictions, the police said last Wednesday they would not disclose information on operational details.
“Police will make assessment and operational deployment in accordance with the actual situation and latest development. As the deployment falls within operational details, Police will not disclose such information,” the police said.
HKFP has reached out to the Chief Executive Office for comment.