Secretary for Justice Paul Lam has said he will not answer hypothetical questions about the legality of mourning victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. When asked by a reporter on Wednesday whether Hongkongers can mourn “on their own initiative,” he said that the public should maintain an awareness of obeying the law.
The remarks were made as Lam met the press after attending an ante chamber exchange session at the legislature. They come as the city approaches the 34th anniversary of the crackdown next Sunday.
“I won’t assess whether an act is definitely legal or illegal based on hypothetical questions, but I think I shall take this chance to reiterate some existing laws of Hong Kong, which the public should know, and I also believe already know, ” said Lam, who pointed to the national security law.
He added that “under the national security law, people can’t incite subversion of state power or split the country. There are four kinds of crimes under the national security law, which is very clear, and I believe that we all understand why there are limitations. Therefore, I urge the public to sustain an awareness of obeying with the law, no matter what activities they are involved in.”
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
For three decades, Hongkongers had been holding candlelight vigils at Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park to commemorate the Tiananmen victims. However, the assembly was banned in 2020 amid Covid-19 restrictions, and there has been no vigil for the past three years.
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.
This year, two pro-Beijing organisations will host a “Hometown Market Carnival” in parts of Victoria Park from next Saturday until June 5. The government has approved the event application, HK01 reported, whilst two football pitches – and half of a two-hectare lawn – will be out-of-bounds throughout June owing to a government maintenance project, according to the Leisure and Cultural Services Department.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the original organiser of the vigil, announced in September 2021 that it would disband after seven members were arrested.
Ex-Alliance leaders Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung have been charged under the security law for allegedly inciting subversion. A trial date has yet to be set.
Ho was granted bail last August but arrested again for allegedly perverting the course of justice.
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