On Monday, Hong Kong law enforcement released a statement officially banning the city’s annual Tiananmen Square vigil citing a “major threat to public health.” This marks the first time the annual congregation has been banned in the city in over 30 years.
Hong Kong has recently extended its social distancing order, banning social gatherings of more than eight people after three new local coronavirus infections were recorded. This brings the total number of confirmed local COVID-19 cases to five in two days after the city recorded no new locally transmitted cases for two weeks.
The announcement was met with swift backlash with many accusing the government’s social distancing extension to be politically motivated as it comes amid the recently proposed national security law – a law that prohibits acts and activities related to subversion, terrorism, separatism and foreign interference.
On Monday, Lee Cheuk-yan – former pro-democracy lawmaker and secretary-general of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, called the extension “totally unreasonable and unscientific.”
Lee argued that while the Hong Kong government has restricted public gatherings, they have authorized larger religious congregations, as well as the reopening of schools, sports facilities and night life districts.
“If they suppress us, it means that one country, two systems is no more … with the national security act, we cannot be optimistic,” said Lee.
“ … These gatherings have always been a test of one country, two systems, and have been so for 31 years. Who would have thought that this would be the year it would stop,” Lee added.
The annual vigil takes place on June 4 which marks the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student-led pro-democracy protest, where an estimated several hundred to several thousand people were killed by Chinese troops, with thousands more injured.
However, no official death toll has ever been released.
In an attempt to quell suspicions of political motivation, a government statement clarified that “no political considerations have ever come into play.” When Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Officer Carrie Lam was asked about possible motives on Tuesday, Lam accused the reporter of “bias.”
Despite the prohibition, many including Lee are not willing to back down.
During a press conference on May 31, Lee encouraged people to show support in groups of less than eight people.
In his proposed ‘Plan B,’ he states that there will be an online rally that people can join freely, as well as over 60 stalls set up around Hong Kong to provide candles and other supplies.
“In the event of a police ban, we invite Hong Kongers to raise their candles – wherever they are. I do not know what will happen if the National Security Law is enacted, but I can say this, we will continue to pay our respects every year on June 4, and we will not back down. Hong Kong people cannot back down.”
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