Police fire pepper spray at Tiananmen protesters in Hong Kong


Hong Kong protesters who defied the ban against holding a vigil of Tiananmen anniversary were dispersed by police using pepper spray. Thousands gathered in a park on Thursday, June 04, to mark the 31st anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square in 1989.

For the first time in 30 years, Hong Kong authorities banned the annual Tiananmen vigil, arguing that it violates the coronavirus social-distancing rule.

Police clashed briefly in the working-class MongKok area, where hundreds had gathered and some demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers.Several protesters were arrested, police said.

Earlier in the day, a few thousand people joined the main rally in Victoria Park, chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” and “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

“We are just remembering those who died on June 04, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it’s over it is ‘sayonara’ (goodbye),” said Ms Kitty, a 70-year-old housewife.

The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in the former British-ruled city this year after China’s move last month to impose national security legislation and the passage of a bill that criminalises disrespect of China’s national anthem.

It also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials voice support for protests in the United States against police brutality.

In Beijing, security around Tiananmen Square, a popular tourist attraction in the heart of the city, appeared to be tightened, with more police visible than on ordinary days. June 4 commemorations are banned in mainland China.

In Hong Kong, which just reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in weeks, police had said a mass gathering would undermine public health.

But many took to the streets to light candles and stand for a minute’s silence. Seven Catholic churches opened their doors for memorials.

Some people held photos of the 1989 events, including a famous one of a man standing in front of a tank convoy.

Millionaire publishing tycoon Jimmy Lai and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee, who were both arrested in April over protests last year, left a church service together.

The European Union and United States both expressed solidarity with the Hong Kong demonstrators’ desire to mark the Tiananmen anniversary.

Meanwhile in Taiwan, where more than 300 people gathered in Liberty Square, demonstrators asked China to apologise, which the mainland called “nonsense”.

“In China, every year has only 364 days; one day is forgotten,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page. “I hope that in every corner of the earth there won’t be any days that are disappeared again. And I wish Hong Kong well.”

China has never provided a full account of the 1989 violence. The death toll given by officials days later was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people may have perished.

On Wednesday, China’s foreign ministry described calls for Beijing to apologise for the crackdown as “complete nonsense”.

“The great achievements since the founding of new China over the past 70 or so years fully demonstrates that the developmental path China has chosen is completely correct,” spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters. (Source: The Straits Times)