HONG KONG- For the first time in three decades, the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre's annual vigil has been prohibited by the Hong Kong police due to the restrictions on public gathering in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sending a letter to the vice-chair of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, Richard Tsoi, who is also the organizer of the Victoria Park's event, the force indicated on the letter they wrote on Monday that they contradict to the gathering because of the imposed social distancing restrictions.
According to The Guardian, in the letter, they specified that such public assemblies are tagged as high-risk activities due to the gathering of a large crowd. hey also emphasized that the event will not only increase attendees' risk of acquiring the virus but also threaten citizens' health and lives, wherein it will put the public safety and the right of others into danger.
The annual candlelight memorial on June 4 attracts thousands of participants. But last month, authorities extended the city's coronavirus-restrictions which includes the banning of public gatherings of more than eight people, which is applicable to this event.
On June 4, 1989, student-led demonstrations in China were ended by the Tiananmen massacre. Estimated thousands of people lost their lives after the deployment of the People's Liberation Army to crack down on Beijing's protesters.
On the other hand, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Alliance convinced members of the public to watched an online vigil wherein the organizers will be lighting candles at Victoria Park and will observe a minute of silence at exactly 8:09 pm despite the anticipated objection.
Alliance chair, Lee Cheuk-yan, shared that their members will be meeting in groups of eight as they will host Thursday's event.
He also added that they will mourn individually but he hopes that there will be candles that will be lit up different districts around the city including the ones at Victoria Park and he also pointed out that each candlelight vigil is self-initiated and cannot be tagged as an assembly.
In a report by Hong Kong Free Press, Michael Mo, who is an activist-turned Councillor in the district of Tuen Mun, also made an announcement via Facebook that the separate vigil in the area of Tsim Sha Tsui will be canceled due to restrictions caused by the global the health crisis.
He also claimed that the government had utilized the COVID-19 as an excuse to push away citizens from commemorating the massacre's victims but he emphasized that in order to avoid police brutality, Hongkongers must not hold a vigil this year in front of the statue of the freedom fighter.
Amnesty International responded as well to the police decision, wherein Deputy Director for East and South-East Asia Joshua Rosenzweig pointed out that the coronavirus must not be used to choke freedom of expression.
Rosenzweig also added that by tagging this event as an illegal, the force has needlessly exacerbated the possible tensions when thousands of people simply want to light a candle for the people who lost their lives during the terrible event on June 4, 1989.