Hong Kong: Tiananmen anniversary arrests highlight deepening repression
People detained for marking Tiananmen crackdown
All those arrested or in custody must be released immediately
Hong Kong’s annual commemoration ceremony has been banned since 2020
‘Commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown is not a crime’ - Montse Ferrer
Responding to the arrests of four people for "seditious intention and disorderly conduct" in Hong Kong ahead of the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, Montse Ferrer, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, said:
“The Hong Kong government is once again using colonial-era ‘sedition’ charges to enable its crackdown on freedom of expression as it attempts to stop people commemorating the horrific events of 4 June 1989.
“But the fact that Hongkongers continue to mark the Tiananmen crackdown, despite the ever-growing risks, lays bare the futility of the authorities’ attempts to enforce silence and obedience.
“The Hong Kong government’s shameful campaign to stop people marking this anniversary mirrors the censorship of the Chinese central government and is an insult to those killed in the Tiananmen crackdown.
“All those arrested simply for exercising their right to freedom of expression should be immediately released, and the Hong Kong police must refrain from targeting others who try to peacefully mark this important anniversary. Commemorating the Tiananmen crackdown is not a crime.”
Eight people were detained near Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Saturday 3 June for what police described as "displaying protest items loaded with seditious wordings, chanting and committing unlawful acts".
Four of those detained have been arrested for "seditious intention and disorderly conduct" and could face up to two years in prison, two remain in custody and two have since been released.
Of those who were arrested, two held aloft pieces of paper saying “personal commemoration, hunger strike for 8,964.34 seconds” referencing the year, date and anniversary of the crackdown and held flowers, another reportedly chanted “Don’t forget June 4! Hong Kong people, don’t be afraid of them!”
Numerous organisations forced to close
Since 1990, every year on 4 June hundreds of thousands of people joined a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember those killed during the Tiananmen crackdown. They called on the Chinese authorities to reveal the truth about what happened and take accountability for the fatalities. The vigil was banned in 2020 and 2021, ostensibly on Covid-19 grounds.
Last year the authorities closed parts of Victoria Park citing potential “illegal activities”, this year it was “unavailable” due to the hosting of an outdoor market organised by pro-Beijing groups.
The organiser of the previous vigils, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, as well as numerous other prominent civil society organisations or political groups, have been forced to close after being targeted by the Hong Kong police on national security grounds. Several of its senior figures, including human rights lawyer Chow Hang-Tung, have been prosecuted under “inciting subversion” charges for their peaceful activism.
Hundreds – possibly thousands – of people were killed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989 when Chinese troops opened fire on students and workers who had been peacefully calling for political and economic reforms as well as an end to corruption. Tens of thousands were arrested across China in the suppression that followed. Many were charged with counter-revolutionary crimes and served very long prison sentences following unfair trials.
Regularly since 1989, activists in mainland China have been detained and charged with “subversion” or “picking quarrels” if they commemorate those who were killed, call for the release of prisoners or criticise government actions during the Tiananmen crackdown.
Amnesty International UK and the campaign group June Fourth Sparks are holding a vigil marking the Tiananmen Square crackdown outside the Chinese Embassy in London on Sunday 4 June (8-10pm).