Coronavirus restrictions are pushing organizers of the annual June 4 Tiananmen vigil to take the memorial online.
Rights group Hong Kong Alliance is calling on the public to light candles in their homes at 8pm tomorrow and tune in to a livestream, which will play on their YouTube and Facebook page, as well as their website. The vigil will begin with a video that will feature the pro-democracy movement of the past year, followed by a minute of silence.
In the afternoon, Hong Kong Alliance will set up over 80 booths across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories to fundraise and distribute candles. Most of the booths will be manned by district councillors.
This will be the first time in 30 years that the normally two-hour long memorial won’t take place at Victoria Park. Due to the coronavirus, restrictions banning the gathering of groups larger than eight people were extended to June 4, and later to June 18 after reports of a new local cluster.
Still, many criticize the government of using public health policies to repress political activity. “It is attempting to extinguish the candlelight at Victoria Park and abolish the right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” a post on the Hong Kong Alliance Facebook page reads.
Authorities have denied this, saying that the virus remains a threat to the city and that social distancing measures are needed for the sake of public health.
The vigil usually attracts tens of thousands of mourners, with crowds spilling out of the park’s football fields to pay their respects to the lives lost during the June 4 massacre. Hundreds or even thousands protestors are reported to have died during the bloody crackdown, when Chinese military troops opened fire on demonstrators calling for democracy in the Communist state.
The 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre takes on new significance this year in the wake of the Central government’s plans to impose a sweeping national security law in Hong Kong. The controversial legislation will target what Beijing deems as seditious activity, foreign interference, terrorism, and subversion against the Communist regime. Critics worry that events like the Tiananmen vigil would not be allowed to take place once the law is passed.
On Reddit-like forum LIHKG, some users called on each other meet at Victoria Park tomorrow night, suggesting the date is apt for a protest. Confrontation with police on the key anniversary would make international headlines and raise more awareness for the city’s movement, a few netizens agreed.
“Taking on a violent regime is not something done overnight,” one comment read. “Hong Kong people… resist and take revenge.”