Photos show thousands of Hong Kongers defying a police order to attend vigils memorializing the victims of the Tienanmen Square massacre

ncolarossi@businessinsider.com (Natalie Colarossi)
People gather at the Tiananmen Square vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, on June 4, 2020.

Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

  • Hong Kong banned residents from memorializing the Tiananmen Square massacre for the first time, but thousands of protesters gathered on Thursday anyway.
  • Hong Kongers came together to light candles, chant slogans, and honor those who died in the pro-democracy fight that China crushed in 1989.
  • There were cases of police arresting and pepper-spraying some protesters who attempted to set up road blocks and barriers, Reuters reported.
  • The Hong Kong government cited the coronavirus as the reason for the ban, but many believe it to be a direct act of suppression, after China passed a national security law to crush Hong Kong dissent.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Thursday, thousands of Hong Kongers defied police orders and gathered to honor the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.

Lighting candles and chanting slogans, residents came out in numbers to defy a police ban that made it illegal to gather in groups of more than eight people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

This was the first time the vigil to memorialize victims of Tienanmen Square has been banned since it began in 1990. Though Hong Kongers still came out to commemorate the tragic day, many fear this year could be their last chance.

The Chinese government signed the national security legislation into law on May 28, and it should severly limit the ability for Hong Kongers to express dissent.

Under the new law, China can impose national security orders, enforce its own military presence, and suppress the voices of activists with lengthy prison sentencing and protest bans. Additionally, on Thursday Hong Kong passed a bill that makes criticizing the Chinese national anthem a crime.

These photos show how people defied the government's orders and gathered to memorialize victims of the Tienanmen Square Massacre.

Every year on June 4, Hong Kong hosts gatherings to honor the hundreds of demonstrators who were killed by the Chinese government during a pro-democracy protest in Beijing's Tienanmen Square in 1989.

Participants were seen holding up candles which reads "truth" on them during the memorial vigil in Victoria Park. Thousands gathered for the annual memorial vigil in Victoria Park to mark the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre despite a police ban citing coronavirus social distancing restrictions.

Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

But on Monday, the territory announced it would ban residents from gathering for the annual vigil for the first time since 1990. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, the city prohibited groups of eight people or more.

People wearing protective face masks hold up their phones as they attend a candlelight vigil ahead of the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, in Hong Kong, China June 3, 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Sources: Business Insider, The New York Times

But that didn't stop Hong Kongers from going out. Ahead of the protests, people were seen hosting candlelight vigils.

People attend a candlelight vigil ahead of the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, in Hong Kong, China June 3, 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Source: Business Insider

One prominent anti-China lawmaker, Eddie Chu, wrote on Facebook earlier in the day on Thursday, "See you at Victoria Park tonight."

Police officers stand guard at a candlelight vigil ahead of the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, in Hong Kong, China June 3, 2020

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Source: Business Insider

And he was right. Thousands of people hopped over fences and barriers to gather in the park and defy police orders, according to the New York Times.

People taking part at the Tiananmen Square vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong on June 04, 2020. Thousands of people allover Hong Kong lit candles on June 4 to commemorate Tiananmen massacre despite government ban against gatherings.

Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

 

Throughout the park, many people sat peacefully and lit candles. Some played songs that were used during the 1989 protests.

A participant was seen displaying a poster which reads "Down with the Chinese Communist Party", as well as another poster which reads "let the candlelight ignites the fight; let the mourning turns into power" in the memorial vigil in Victoria Park.

Alda Tsang/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Announcements were made over a loudspeaker encouraging people to maintain social distancing, and many protesters were seen doing so.

People are sitting at Victoria Park while respecting the social distancing rules during the Tiananmen Square vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong on June 04, 2020.

Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Others gathered in a closer range to chant slogans and wave pro-democracy signs.

Protesters wave Hong Kong independence flags as they take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, at Victoria Park, in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Many viewed the attempted ban on the demonstration as a way to further suppress the voices of Hong Kongers.

Participants were seen holding up a banner which reads "Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times" as well as candles in the memorial vigil in Victoria Park.

Alda Tsang/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

On May 28, the Chinese government passed a national security law that will effectively crush protest movements and criticism against the government.

Protesters wearing protective face masks take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, at Victoria Park, in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Source: Business Insider

Though people gathered in numerous locations to defy the police, many fear this could be the last Tienanmen Square vigil.

Residents light candles during the Tiananmen Square vigil in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, China on June 4, 2020

Tommy Walker/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

"It will be the last candlelight vigil before the national security act," chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said, according to The New York Times. "Next year will be even more dangerous. Next year they can use the national security act against the people of Hong Kong."

A man wearing a protective face mask looks on as protesters take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, after police rejects a mass annual vigil on public health grounds, at Victoria Park, in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020.

REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Source: Business Insider

Nonetheless, Hong Kongers came out in numbers to fight against the new laws. In this photo, protesters are seen doing a hand gesture that means "Five demands, not one less" that was established last year during widespread pro-democracy protests.

People gesture the popular protest slogan 'Five demands, not one less' as they attend a vigil in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020

YAN ZHAO/AFP via Getty Images

At the University of Hong Kong, students were seen taking a moment of silence in front of a statue honoring the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

University students observe a minute of silence in front of the Pillar of Shame, a statue by Danish artist Jens Galschiot to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing, at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in Hong Kong, China June 4, 2020

REUTERS/Jessie Pang

Here, a protester holds up an image from June 4, 1989, when 200 to 10,000 were estimated to have died, fighting for more political freedoms.

A man displays an image on his smartphone of the Tiananmen crackdown during the Tiananmen Square vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong on June 04, 2020.

Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Source: BBC

Protesters gathered to show support in Taipei, Taiwan, on Thursday, too.

Hong Kong anti-government demonstrators gather at Liberty Square in Taipei to mark the 31st anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy protests at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, Taiwan, June 4, 2020.

REUTERS/Ann Wang

Those who did not attend the protests in person were encouraged to stand in solidarity by lighting candles in their windows.

People attend a candlelight vigil along the Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront in Hong Kong on June 4, 2020, to mark the 31st anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

RICHARD A. BROOKS/AFP via Getty Images

Source: Business Insider

The gathering has historically been a way for Hong Kongers to memorialize the dead, advocate for democracy, and teach the youth about the brutal Tiananmen Square protests.

Two sisters look on as candles are lit during the Tiananmen Square vigil in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, June 4th 2020

Tommy Walker/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

"What we are fighting for is the same: freedom and democracy. And they did so facing the risk of death," Mary Li, a 23-year-old university student, told The New York Times about honoring the victims of Tiananmen Square. "Coming here today, we may only be risking arrest. What they experienced makes me feel very somber."

People wave banners and flags of independence and in support of the pro-democracy movement during the Tiananmen Square vigil remembrance in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong on June 04, 2020.

Miguel Candela/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Source: The New York Times

Though the protests were peaceful, police arrested and pepper-sprayed some protesters after some attempted to block the road, Reuters reported.

Undercover police arrested attendees during a memorial vigil in Mongkok on June 4, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.

Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

Source: Reuters

Read the original article on Business Insider