HONG KONG (Reuters) – Many people in Hong Kong will find their own way to mark the 31st anniversary of Chinese troops who opened fire on protesters in and around Tiananmen Square, after an annual candlelight vigil was interrupted for the first time time because of the coronavirus.
Office worker Daisy Lam talks to Reuters about her experience joining the annual candlelight vigil on June 4, in her living room in Hong Kong, China, June 1, 2020. REUTERS / Yoyo Chow
The anniversary of the breakdown of student-led democracy protests has received special attention this year, which comes a week after Beijing gave the green light to move on with national security legislation for Hong Kong, which critics fear will crush the freedoms of the former British colony.
“I can’t be quiet. If people tell me to shut up, I won’t, says office worker Daisy Lam (52), who has participated in almost every watch since June 4, 1989 with her children.
Former Hong Kong student leader Chan Ching-wah, 56, was in Beijing on June 4, 1989, recalling the kindness of a customs official who let him take a bag full of photos and video of the military breakdown when he left Beijing.
“I feel that I never left because the danger facing Hong Kong, the oppression it will face is no small thing,” Chan told Reuters as he held a photo of himself on Tiananmen Square.
“I hope the fight in Hong Kong will not lead to a breakdown like June 4.”
Fear has intensified over what many Hong Kong residents see as Beijing’s intrusion on its freedoms, and its impact on the city’s status as a global financial hub.
Authorities in the mainland and Hong Kong reject criticism of security legislation and insist that the city’s high degree of autonomy will remain intact under a “one country, two systems” formula.
In recent years, Hong Kong’s candlelight memorials have drawn tens of thousands of people to the city’s Victoria Park.
But police said this week a mass rally would pose a serious threat to public health just as the city reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus case in two weeks.
Hong Kong has banned gatherings of more than eight people to prevent the spread of the virus.
Former City Manager Carrie Lam said on Tuesday that the restrictions were not about restricting freedom and public health was also part of national security.
Despite the ban, online forums and vigil organizers have urged people to light candles to remember those who perished.
Priscilla Leung, a retired non-governmental official, said she would continue to inform young people about the Tiananmen crackdown, which is a taboo issue on the mainland. The anniversary is not marked by the government.
“I’ve already bought some electronic flashlights and I’m going to light them on the streets,” Leung said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a person or a few people, as long as there is fire in our hearts, we will be able to pass the message on to the next generation.”
Reporting by Pak Yiu, Yoyo Chow and Donny Kwok; Writing by Anne Marie Roantree; Editing by Robert Birsel