Organiser of Tiananmen Square vigil arrested in Hong Kong on anniversary of massacre

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Chow Hang Tung poses with a candle ahead of the 32nd anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square - Reuters
Chow Hang Tung poses with a candle ahead of the 32nd anniversary of the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Beijing's Tiananmen Square - Reuters

Hong Kong police arrested an organiser of an annual candlelit vigil commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown on Friday, the 32nd anniversary of the massacre.

Chow Hang Tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises the vigil that has been banned this year, was taken away on Friday morning.

Police said that a 36-year-old member of the alliance had been arrested, along with a 20-year-old food delivery man, for promoting an unauthorised assembly.

Ironically, Chow was taken away by plainclothes police in a car with a number plate ending in 64, the number that represents the June 4 massacre, according to an AFP video.

Her arrest comes as thousands of police are expected to patrol the city to prevent any unauthorised gatherings on the anniversary of Chinese soldiers opening fire on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people died in the heart of Beijing. The toll has never been revealed.

While the events of 1989 are taboo in mainland China, the annual June 4 vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park has traditionally drawn tens of thousands of people. But police refused permission for the vigil this year and last year, citing Covid-related restrictions.

Other attempts to publicly mark the 32nd anniversary in Hong Kong have also been shut down, with many Hongkongers seeing their freedoms being further squeezed amid an ongoing crackdown on dissent.

Authorities have said people face up to five years in prison if they participate in the Victoria Park evening vigil, and one year for publicising it.

"She only wanted to go to Victoria Park, light a candle and commemorate," Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Alliance, told Reuters, adding he believed the arrest was meant to strike fear into those planning to attend the vigil.

Some 3,000 police officers will be on standby around the park, and thousands more are expected to be on the lookout elsewhere in the city for unauthorised gatherings.

Tens of thousands of people defied last year’s ban, and gathered peacefully in the city’s Victoria Park.

Police later charged more than 20 prominent pro-democracy activists, including Chow, for participating or inciting others to take part.

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