pro-democracy leaders detained on Tiananmen anniversary

pro-democracy leaders detained on Tiananmen anniversary

Hong Kong police detained several figures from the pro-democracy movement, including an opposition party leader, on Sunday on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. Police were deployed en masse around Victoria Park in the Causeway Bay shopping district, where every year thousands of people used to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of June 4, 1989.

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Police detained Chan Po-ying, a leader of the League of Social Democrats, who was carrying a candle and flowers, and put them in a van. Also detained were Alexandra Wong, a 67-year-old activist known as “Grandma Wong” while waving a bouquet of flowers in the air, and journalist and former president of the Hong Kong Journalists Association Mak Yin-ting.

Another woman was also arrested after shouting “Raise sail! Mourn 4/6!”, referring to the date of the democratic uprising that Beijing suppressed with blood. In total, at least ten people were arrested.

The day before, the police had already arrested four people for “disorderly conduct in public space” and another four for “disturbance of public order”.

In mainland China, the authorities are prohibited from commemorating the events of June 4, 1989, when troops and tanks crushed the pro-democracy movement that had been demonstrating for weeks in that Beijing square, killing more than 1,000 people.

Hong Kong, which Britain returned to Beijing in 1997, was for a time the only Chinese city to hold a candlelight vigil in memory of those events.

But in 2020, a national security law imposed from Beijing on the city, the scene of massive protests the year before, put an end to these commemorations.

This year, the park is occupied by a trade fair dedicated to products from southern China and organized by pro-Beijing groups to celebrate the 26th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover.

“Hong Kong is a different city today,” estimated a 53-year-old woman. When she was asked about the vigil, she said that it was an event from the past.

The Chinese government has done everything possible to erase Tiananmen from public memory in mainland China. History books do not mention it and any online discussion on the subject is systematically censored.

The British embassy in Beijing published the June 4, 1989 front page of the Chinese newspaper People’s Daily, which showed a story about how hospitals were inundated with victims.

“In less than 20 minutes, the censors removed our post on Weibo” (Chinese Twitter), the embassy tweeted on Sunday.

Authorities also deployed police around the Sitong Bridge in Beijing, where a protester had hung a banner calling for “freedom” in a rare protest last October.

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