Hong Kong police fire pepper spray during Tiananmen memorials

Hong Kong police fire pepper spray during Tiananmen memorials
By: World News Posted On: June 04, 2020 View: 62

Hong Kong police fire pepper spray during Tiananmen memorials

Police have fired pepper spray at Hong Kong protesters who were defying a ban to stage candlelit rallies in memory of China's 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown.

Hong Kong banned the annual vigil, due to be held today, for the first time in 30 years because it violates coronavirus lockdown rules that ban gatherings of more than eight people.

However, scuffles broke out in the working-class Mong Kok district in Kowloon, northern Hong Kong, when demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers.

Activists gather for candlelit remembrance outside Victoria Park in Hong Kong
Image: Activists gather for candlelit remembrance outside Victoria Park in Hong Kong

Officers used pepper spray to disperse the protesters, who accused Beijing of stifling their freedoms, and several people were arrested.

Hong Police tweeted that "some black-clad protesters are blocking roads in Mong Kok. Police officers are now making arrests."

They urged people not to gather in groups because of the coronavirus.

Several thousand people joined the main rally in Victoria Park, with groups of protesters dressed in black carrying flags and chanting slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong".

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Security around Tiananmen Square, a tourist attraction in the heart of Beijing, appeared to be tightened, with more police visible in anticipation of protests.

A display showing the Goddess of Democracy and lettering that reads 'Free HK' is seen a stall near Victoria Park
Image: A display showing the Goddess of Democracy and lettering that reads 'Free HK' is seen a stall near Victoria Park

Attracting huge crowds to an outdoor space each year, the vigil marks the deadly military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

On the night of 3 to 4 June 31 years ago, hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when tanks and troops moved in to break up weeks of student-led protests that had spread to other cities and were seen as a threat to Communist Party rule.

Zhou Fengsuo, student leader during the Tiananmen Square protests, told Kay Burley at Breakfast that most of the survivors of the crackdown live outside of China today and are "still afraid to talk about it".

The vigil attracts thousands of people every year
Image: 2014: The vigil attracts thousands of people every year

"We are afraid this will be the last time we can have a ceremony but Hong Kongers will always remember what happened on 4 June," said Brenda Hui, 24, in Mong Kok.

The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in the former British-ruled city this year after China passed a law earlier on Thursday making it a crime to disrespect China's national anthem earlier.

The law was passed despite pro-democracy lawmakers disrupting proceeding twice to try to prevent the vote.

Banned Beijing Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary in Hong Kong., China. Pic: Jerome Favre /EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Image: Banned Beijing Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary in Hong Kong, China. Pic: Jerome Favre /EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
People leave after attending a church mass in Hong Kong to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing
Image: People leave after attending a church mass in Hong Kong to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing

Sharon Hom, executive director of Human Rights in China, said: "The ban comes amid an alarming acceleration of attacks on the autonomy of Hong Kong and the undermining of the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people guaranteed under Hong Kong and international law."

People attend a mass outside a church in Hong Kong
Image: People attend a mass outside a church in Hong Kong

The ban also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials have voiced support for protests in the US against police brutality.

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