China tightens security to prevent Hong Kong from commemorating Tiananmen protests

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The anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square protests was marked by a tightening of security in Hong Kong.

On June 4, 33 years ago, Chinese troops were ordered to violently suppress student-led unrest in and around the square in Beijing, the Chinese capital. Estimates of the number of pro-democracy protesters killed range from several hundred to 10,000.

Since then, Chinese authorities have banned any public commemoration of the event.

On Saturday, Hong Kong police warned the public not to gather on the Tiananmen anniversary, in a bid to try to erase any reminder of the deadly episode in Chinese history.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong was once a place in China where large-scale remembrance was still tolerated, until two years ago when Beijing imposed a national security law to quash dissent after huge pro-demonstrations -democracy in 2019.

Authorities made multiple arrests on Saturday, with AFP journalists seeing at least half a dozen people arrested and taken away by police.

Police confirmed an 80-year-old man was arrested for obstructing officers earlier in the day, but have yet to confirm the number of arrests made after dark.

Warnings were issued by authorities ahead of the day that ‘participating in an unauthorized gathering’ risked the maximum penalty of five years in prison.

These actions were seen by Hong Kong activists as part of China’s broader agenda to stifle political dissent.

Victoria Park in Hong Kong, once the site of annual candlelight vigils, was closed on Saturday evening, with a heavy police presence on surrounding streets.

As night fell, dozens of scattered people turned on their phone lights in the park.

Police quickly told them via megaphone to put out their torches, warning people they risked breaking the law on unauthorized gatherings.

When asked how this action could constitute a crime, an officer told AFP that he would “leave it to my colleagues to explain themselves at a press conference”.

China’s erasure of public exhibits commemorating Tiananmen Square has become near total in Hong Kong since Beijing enacted a national security law on the island in 2020.

Six universities in Hong Kong have removed June 4 monuments that have been on their campuses for years.

Last December, the University of Hong Kong withdrew its so-called “Pillar of Shame” commemorating the victims of the massacre.

Annual Catholic memorial masses, one of the last ways Hong Kongers gather publicly to remember Tiananmen, were canceled this year over fears they would break the law.

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