HONG KONG/TAIPEE, June 4 (Reuters) – Hong Kong police said they arrested 23 people on Sunday for “violating public peace” and arrested a 53-year-old woman for “obstructing police officers” as authorities beefed up security on the 34th. The memory of 1989 in Tiananmen Square.
Restrictions in Hong Kong have stifled what were once the largest vigils marking the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters by Chinese forces, leaving cities such as Taipei, London, New York and Berlin to keep the memory of June Fourth alive.
Near Victoria Park, the former site of annual vigils, hundreds of policemen conducted stops and searches, deploying armored vehicles and police vans.
Reuters witnesses saw more than a dozen people taken away, including activist Alexandra Wong, 67, who was carrying a bouquet of flowers, a man holding a copy of “May 35,” a play about the Tiananmen campaign, and an elderly man standing up. Alone on a street corner with a candle.
“The system wants you to forget, but you can’t forget… It (China) wants to whitewash all history,” said Chris Tu, 51, who visited the park in a black T-shirt and was searched by police.
“We need to use our bodies and our word of mouth to tell others what happened.”
On Monday, police said officers had arrested 11 men and 12 women, ranging in age from 20 to 74, on suspicion of “violating the public peace at the scene.”
Hong Kong activists say such police action is part of a broader campaign by China to quash dissent in the city that promised 50 years of freedoms under the “one country, two systems” model when Britain handed it back in 1997.
Local media reported that security has been tighter across Hong Kong this year, with up to 6,000 police deployed, including riot control and anti-terrorism officers.
Senior officials have warned people to abide by the law, but have refused to say whether such commemorative activities are illegal under the national security law that China imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 after mass, sometimes violent, pro-democracy protests.
Police said in a statement that some of them were arrested on charges of sedition and “breach of the public peace”.
On Monday, the United Nations said it was “concerned” about the arrests in Hong Kong.
In Beijing, Tiananmen Square was packed with tourists taking pictures under the watchful eyes of police and other staff, but without any visible sign of tightened security.
A group of relatives called the “Tiananmen Mothers” said the pain never ended.
“Although 34 years have passed, for us, the family members of those killed, the pain of losing our loved ones that night torments us to this day,” the organization said in a statement issued by New York-based Human Rights Watch. rights in China.
Despite the warnings in Hong Kong, some individuals, including bookkeepers, were quietly celebrating June 4th.
Imprisoned Hong Kong activist Cho Hang Tung, one of the leaders of a group called The Alliance, which used to hold vigils on June 4, said on Facebook that she would be on a 34-hour hunger strike.
In mainland China, any mention of the Tiananmen Square crackdown — where troops opened fire on pro-democracy demonstrators, killing hundreds if not thousands, according to rights groups — is taboo and the topic is closely censored.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning, when asked about the government’s reaction to events around the world to mark the anniversary, said in Beijing on Friday that the government had already reached “a clear conclusion about the political turmoil of the late 1980s.”
In democratically-ruled Taiwan, the last part of the Chinese-speaking world where the commemoration can be celebrated freely, hundreds attended a memorial in Taipei’s Freedom Square where the “Pillar of Shame” statue was on display.
At the event, interpreter Peggy Kwan, 57, expressed her sadness at the stifling of celebrations in Hong Kong.
“Hong Kong is going backwards,” she said.
China claims that Taiwan belongs to it and has not given up on the use of force to ensure eventual unification. Taiwan Vice President William Lai, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate in the upcoming January elections, wrote on his Facebook page that the memory of what happened in Beijing in 1989 should be preserved.
“The June 4th commemoration celebration continued to be held in Taipei, showing that democracy and authoritarianism are the biggest differences between Taiwan and China,” he said.
In Sydney, one of more than 30 places in North America, Europe and Asia hosting commemorative events, dozens of demonstrators crowded City Hall, chanting “Free Hong Kong” while holding up yellow banners and umbrellas, a symbol of the pro-democracy protests. since 2014.
Additional reporting by You Lun Tian in Beijing and Joyce Zhou and Farah Master in Hong Kong. Angie Teo in Taipei; James Redmayne in Sydney; Written by James Pomfret. Editing by Nick McPhee, Stephen Coates and Edmund Kelman
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