Thirty-two years after the brutal repression in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the gut-churning events of that dreadful summer have resonated in the echo chambers of Hong Kong. The authorities of the island nation, kowtowing to the imprimatur from mainland China, have utilised the opportunity afforded by the Tiananmen Square crackdown in June 1989 to turn the screws with renewed vigour on the ebullient pro-democracy activists.
It thus comes about that the police blocked off a park to prevent people gathering to commemorate the 32nd anniversary of the repression that has marked China’s narrative. And then to reinforce the mainland’s repressive authority, the organiser of the planned vigil was arrested.
The annual June 4 vigil is usually held in the former British colony’s Victoria Park, with people gathering to light candles for the pro-democracy demonstrators killed by Chinese troops in Beijing in the summer of 1989. Police said at least six people, aged between 20 and 75, were arrested on Friday, tragically on the day of the anniversar..”Being able to have a memory is a basic human right.
Taking that away is beyond anyone’s authority,” was the response of the District Councillor, Derek Chu, in a remarkable moment of candour. “We need to remember those people who have been sacrificed for democracy in the past.” Early on Friday, police arrested Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, for promoting an unauthorised assembly.
“She only wanted to go to Victoria Park, light a candle and commemorate,” said Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Alliance. Indeed, the 4th of June is now a test for Hong Kong ~ specifically “of whether we can defend our bottom line of morality”. The praxis of the Hong Kong authorities, pre-eminently the likes of the chief executive, Carrie Lam, showcases the degree of repression.
The Alliance’s chairman, Lee Cheukyan, is in jail over an illegal assembly. The authorities have warned of more arrests, saying that anyone who takes part in an unauthorised assembly could face up to five years in jail. The heightened vigilance on the part of the authorities was a marked departure from Hong Kong’s freedoms of speech and assembly, bringing the global financial hub closer in line with mainland China’s strict controls on society.
While this is the perception of activists, police did not say whether commemorating Tiananmen would breach the new national security law. That crucial facet has been left delightfully vague. June 4 commemorations are banned in mainland China. Friday’s crackdown is of a piece with that ban.