International human rights group Amnesty International is planning candlelight vigils in cities across the world to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. This year could be the first without any public activities in Hong Kong to mark the anniversary.

A timetable showing that the football pitches at Victoria Park were fully booked on June 4, 2022. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

By Thursday, the football pitches at Victoria Park – the site of the city’s annual candlelight vigil – were fully booked on June 4, the anniversary of the crackdown. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department earlier said the pitches could only be reserved for “designated use” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Victoria Park in Causeway Bay on Thursday night. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

While the scene may be muted in Hong Kong, Amnesty International and other rights groups have planned events and memorials overseas. Vigils will be held in cities such as San Francisco and Washington DC in the US, Seoul in South Korea, Taipei in Taiwan, Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, Sydney in Australia, Oslo in Norway, Paris in France, Amsterdam in the Netherlands and London in the UK.

Metal fences erected around a football pitch in Victoria Park with a notice saying that pitch number three and six would be temporarily closed for maintenance work from mid-May until June 16, 2022. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“The Chinese government’s concerted efforts to erase the Tiananmen crackdown from history have spread to Hong Kong since the national security law was enacted in the city in 2020. But the atrocities of 4 June 1989 must never be forgotten,” Hana Young, Amnesty International’s East Asia deputy regional director, said in a statement.

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 government has banned the annual candlelight vigil, which was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, for the past two years, citing public health reasons amid the pandemic.

In 2020, many Hongkongers defied the ban and went ahead with the commemoration. A number of prominent veteran activists, such as Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung, have been jailed for organising or taking part in an unauthorised assembly.

A man walking in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Lee, Ho and Chow were former leaders of the Alliance. The group disbanded last year, after more than three decades of advocacy to commemorate those who died 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.

A person holds an electric candle outside police barricades around Victoria Park on June 4, 2021. File photo: Jimmy Lam/HKFP.

In 2021, police cordoned off Victoria Park entirely to bar people from entering.

Pro-democracy party the League of Social Democrats, one of the few remaining opposition groups in Hong Kong, said it had not decided what activities to hold on June 4.

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Almond Li

Almond Li is a Hong Kong-based journalist who previously worked for Reuters and Happs TV as a freelancer, and as a reporter at Hong Kong International Business Channel, Citizen News and Commercial Radio Hong Kong. She earned her Masters in Journalism at the University of Southern California. She has an interest in LGBT+, mental health and environmental issues.