Police have warned that anyone participating in an unauthorised assembly risks up to five years in prison, as Victoria Park is closed ahead of Saturday’s Tiananmen crackdown anniversary. The park in Causeway Bay has traditionally been the site of commemorative candlelit vigils to remember the 1989 dead.
“Police noticed that some people have been spreading messages on the Internet to incite others to take part in unauthorised assemblies at Victoria Park and in Causeway Bay tomorrow (June 4),” a police force press release said on Friday.
It is unclear what public messages the authorities are referring to. Most online calls for commemorations appear to be related to overseas events, rather than calls to gather in Victoria Park.
Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, police urged the public “to refrain from participating in, advertising or publicising any unauthorised assemblies and prohibited gatherings.”
They added that manpower would be deployed at “relevant locations” and officers may make arrests.
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.
Hongkongers had openly mourned the people who died in the crackdown for more than 30 years. But the city’s annual vigil, organised by the now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, were banned by the police in 2020 and 2021 citing public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
On June 4 last year, Victoria Park was empty for the first time in 32 years after police invoked section 17 of the Public Order Ordinance to seal off the central lawn, football pitches and basketball courts at the recreation venue. Hundreds of citizens, many dressed in black, roamed the streets around the park holding electronic candles or their mobile phones with the flashlight turned on.
Senior Superintendent Liauw Ka-kei toid reporters on Thursday that it would not be an issue for citizens to “walk on the street, have meals and go to the cinema” on Saturday. Asked whether lighting up a candle at home was illegal, Liauw said he “could not see what laws it would violate,” adding there was no need to “over-speculate.”