HONG KONG – Police arrested an organizer of the annual Hong Kong candle light vigil commemorating the deadly crackdown on Tiananmen Square and warned people not to attend the banned event on Friday as the city silences its pro voices -democracy.
Hong Kong had been the last place on Chinese soil where the June 4, 1989 event was publicly commemorated, and tens of thousands of people have gathered in Victoria Park in recent years to honor the victims who died when the Chinese military shot down pro-democratic students.
On Friday morning in Beijing Square, security was tightened and police verified the identities of pedestrians as tourist buses shuttled Chinese tourists into the square like any other day.
When the Hong Kong vigil was banned for the second year, authorities raised the risks of gathering large crowds during the coronavirus pandemic. But the action comes amid sweeping measures to control the city, including a new national security law, electoral changes and arrests of scores of activists who took part in pro-democracy protests that swept Hong Kong in 2019. .
Law Kwok-hoi, chief superintendent of the Hong Kong police force, urged residents not to attend the forbidden vigil. Participation in an illegal assembly is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Law also told reporters that police arrested a 36-year-old woman from the Hong Kong Alliance, as well as a 20-year-old food delivery boy for advertising and publicizing an unauthorized rally on their accounts. of social networks, even after the ban on the vigil. .
The alliance confirmed the arrest of its vice president, Chow Hang Tung, on Friday morning.
The alliance organized the vigil and ran the June 4 Museum dedicated to the memory of Tiananmen. The museum was closed this week.
After police issued an earlier warning that the gathering for the vigil may be illegal, Chow continued his activism, urging people to commemorate the event in private by lighting a candle wherever they are.
Last year, thousands of people flocked to Victoria Park to light candles and sing songs in remembrance despite the ban. Police then charged more than 20 activists, including Chow, for their unauthorized participation in the assembly.
Two other key members of the Hong Kong Alliance – Lee Cheuk-yan and Albert Ho – are behind bars for attending separate unauthorized assemblies in 2019, during a period when Hong Kong has seen anti-government protests massive.
Chow, a lawyer in Hong Kong, said in a previous interview with The Associated Press that she expected to be jailed at some point for her activism. It has been part of the Hong Kong Alliance since 2010.
“I am already being persecuted for participating in and inciting the candlelight vigil last year,” she said.
“If I continue my democracy activism in Hong Kong and China, they will surely come after me at some point, so that’s kind of planned.”