Hong Kong’s law is “clearly stated,” Chief Executive John Lee has said when asked to explain the reason behind a number of arrests made in relation to the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary.

Meanwhile, the police have condemned a statement issued by the city’s largest press group, which urged police to explain why a journalist was taken away from Causeway Bay on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of the crackdown.

A woman is put in a police vehicle in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Mandy Cheng/HKFP.
A woman was put in a police vehicle in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2023 and was later arrested. Photo: Mandy Cheng/HKFP.

On Sunday, the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, police arrested a 53-year-old woman for allegedly obstructing police officers after she refused to show her identity card outside Victoria Park, where annual candlelit vigils were once held to remember the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown.

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.

In addition, 11 men and 12 women, aged 20 to 74, were taken away on Sunday for further investigation on suspicion of breaching the peace, according to the police. They included unionist Leo Tang and chairwoman of pro-democracy group the League of Social Democrats Chan Po-ying. Separately, four people were arrested on the eve of the anniversary.

Commemorative acts on June 4 this year were muted and scattered in Hong Kong, as top government officials failed to give a clear answer over the legality of the mourning. Small acts of defiance were seen as people showed pictures of a candle on their phones, read books related to the crackdown in public and wore clothes carrying pro-democracy messages.

Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on May 9, 2023.
Chief Executive John Lee meets the press on May 9, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

When asked what was wrong with the behaviour of those who were taken away on Sunday, and why the government had not specified the consequences beforehand, Lee said during his weekly press conference on Tuesday:” I think the government’s position is very clear.”

“Anybody must act in accordance with the law and they are responsible for what they do, and the law is already very well clearly stated in Hong Kong,” Lee added.

He said that laws governing public events included the public order ordinance and also laws that may relate to incitement and disorderly conduct.

“All such cases will be dealt with in accordance with the laws based on the actual circumstances and the police will continue to deal with such matters in accordance with these principles,” he said.

Strong condemnation

Mak Yin-ting, former chief of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, the city’s largest press group, and freelance reporter for Radio France Internationale (RFI) was among one of those taken away by the police on Sunday.

The HKJA released a statement on Monday, urging the police to explain the rationale behind escorting Mak from the area.

Journalist and former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, is taken away by police. Photo: HKFP.
Journalist and former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, is taken away by police. File photo: HKFP.

Later on Monday, the police sent a letter to the press group expressing their dissatisfaction and strong condemnation, saying the content of the statement was “severely false” and had caused harm to the police image and requesting the HKJA withdraw the statement. The letter was posted to the police Facebook page.

According to the police, Mak was not wearing a press card nor was she engaging in obvious reporting behaviour when she was stopped and searched by the officers.

The police media liaison team provided coordination at Mak’s request while she was being questioned by the officers. The team “did their upmost” to assist her in completing the established procedures.

“However, despite repeated exhortations and warnings, the officers were unable to obtain Mak’s cooperation, which severely obstructed the normal operation of the police,” the statement read.

The police said the officers had no choice, but to take her back to the police station.

Journalist and former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, is taken away by police. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.
Journalist and former chair of the Hong Kong Journalists Association, Mak Yin-ting, is taken away by police. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

According to the HKJA statement, Mak showed her press credentials to the police and told the officers that she was reporting. She asked the police why she had been stopped and demanded to meet with personnel from the media liaison branch.

The police media liaison team then instructed Mak to go to a tent for a standard search and said she would be released afterwards. The RFI freelancer entered a cordoned area and the police did not conduct a search, but rather put her into a police van, HKJA said.

“We urge the police to respect the work of journalists and not arbitrarily detain them, which seriously hinders their reporting work. We demand that the police explain the incident,” the HKJA statement read.

Support HKFP  |  Policies & Ethics  |  Error/typo?  |  Contact Us  |  Newsletter  | Transparency & Annual Report | Apps

Help safeguard press freedom & keep HKFP free for all readers by supporting our team

contribute to hkfp methods
YouTube video

Support press freedom & help us surpass 1,000 monthly Patrons: 100% independent, governed by an ethics code & not-for-profit.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Mandy Cheng is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. Previously, she worked at Ming Pao, focusing on investigative and feature reporting. She also contributed to Cable TV and others.