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Hong Kong locks down Tiananmen vigil park amid tight safety, arrests organiser By Reuters

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© Reuters. Law enforcement officials patrol in Tiananmen Sq. in Beijing, China, June 3, 2021. Image shot by way of a window. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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By Pak Yiu and Clare Jim

HONG KONG (Reuters) -Hong Kong sealed off a park the place tens of hundreds collect yearly to commemorate China’s 1989 Tiananmen crackdown and arrested the vigil’s organiser on Friday, in what activists see as suppression of one of many metropolis’s predominant symbols of democratic hope.

A blanket of safety was thrown over the previous British colony to stop folks gathering to mild candles for the pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese language troops in Beijing 32 years in the past.

Media reported police have been conducting stop-and-search checks at three cross-harbour tunnels resulting in Hong Kong island, inflicting lengthy tailbacks in the course of the night rush hour. Water cannon and armoured autos have been noticed.

The heightened vigilance from authorities was a marked departure from Hong Kong’s cherished freedoms of speech and meeting, bringing the worldwide monetary hub nearer in step with mainland China’s strict controls on society, activists say.

Hong Kong’s annual June 4 vigil, the world’s largest, is often held in Victoria Park, to the east of Hong Kong’s central enterprise district, and is broadly seen as a logo of the semi-autonomous metropolis’s democratic aspirations and want to protect its distinct lifestyle.

This 12 months’s anniversary is the primary underneath a sweeping and contentious nationwide safety regulation Beijing imposed on its freest metropolis final 12 months.

Early on Friday, police arrested Chow Cling Tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Assist of Patriotic Democratic Actions of China, for selling an unauthorised meeting. Hours later, officers cordoned off many of the downtown park, together with soccer pitches and basketball courts.

“She solely wished to go to Victoria Park, mild a candle and commemorate,” Chiu Yan Loy, govt member of the Alliance, informed Reuters, including he believed her arrest was meant to strike worry into these planning to attend the vigil.

Police, which banned the vigil for a second 12 months in a row, citing the coronavirus, mentioned there have been nonetheless social media requires folks to rally regardless of the ban and warned of extra arrests. Anybody who took half in an unauthorised meeting might withstand 5 years in jail, the Safety Bureau mentioned.

“From the underside of my coronary heart, I need to say I consider Hong Kong continues to be a really protected and free metropolis,” senior superintendent Liauw Ka-kei informed reporters, including that police had no choice however to implement the regulation.

Some activists have questioned why the vigil was banned when concert events, artwork festivals and different occasions have been allowed to go forward and life within the metropolis – which recorded only one new coronavirus case on Thursday – has largely returned to regular.

Chow informed Reuters this week earlier than her arrest that June 4 was a check for Hong Kong “of whether or not we are able to defend our backside line of morality”.

“So long as they have not mentioned candles are unlawful, we are going to mild a candle,” she mentioned.

Her Fb (NASDAQ:) web page mentioned Chow will mark the anniversary by fasting if she is unable to mild a candle as a result of her arrest.

The Alliance’s chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, is in jail over an unlawful meeting.

‘LIGHT A CIGARETTE’

Police didn’t say whether or not commemorating Tiananmen would breach the brand new nationwide safety regulation.

Metropolis chief Carrie Lam has solely mentioned that residents should respect the regulation, in addition to the Communist Social gathering, which this 12 months celebrates its a centesimal anniversary. June 4 commemorations are banned in mainland China.

Final 12 months, hundreds in Hong Kong defied the ban, gathering within the park and lining up on sidewalks with candles throughout town, in what was largely a solemn occasion, bar a quick scuffle with police in a single district.

Outstanding activist Joshua Wong obtained a 10-month jail sentence final month for collaborating in final 12 months’s vigil, whereas three others bought four-to-six-month sentences. Twenty extra are due in courtroom on June 11 on related fees.

“It’s a battle towards oblivion,” exiled activist Sunny Cheung informed Reuters by textual content.

Many plan to mild candles once more of their neighbourhood. Activists on-line referred to as for folks to activate the lights of their houses at 8.00 p.m. Some church buildings can be open for prayers.

College students at Hong Kong College carried out the annual ritual of cleansing the Pillar of Disgrace statue within the campus, an eight-metre-tall monument commemorating Tiananmen.

“We need to defend the historic fact,” pupil union president Charles Kwok mentioned.

Jailed activist Jimmy Sham mentioned through his Fb web page he deliberate to “mild a cigarette at 8pm”.

“We don’t see the hope of democracy and freedom in a pacesetter, a bunch, or a ceremony. Each considered one of us is the hope of democracy and freedom.”

China has by no means supplied a full account of the 1989 violence. The loss of life toll given by officers days later was about 300, most of them troopers, however rights teams and witnesses say hundreds of individuals might have perished.