Despite a ban on commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, thousands of Hong Kong residents turned out Thursday, only to be met with threats and pepper spray.
Elsewhere, police warned residents not to participate in banned gatherings, according to The Guardian.
Hong Kong police had earlier banned an annual candlelight ritual, citing public health as a reason for the ceremony to be banned for the first time since it began.
Despite the ban, marchers still gathered, some shouting “Hong Kong independence, only way!”, “Hong Kong, build our own nation!” and “Free Hong Kong, democracy now!”
“What happened in Tiananmen showed the true nature of the Communist Party,” 25-year-old Lawrence said.
“Instead of being silenced, I’d rather sacrifice myself for freedom. If we have no freedom, it makes no difference whether you’re in jail or not.”
“We are just remembering those who died on June 4, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it’s over it’s ‘sayonara,’” 70-year-old Kitty told Reuters.
This says everything you need to know about the Chinese Communist Party’s crackdown on human rights in Hong Kong.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) June 1, 2020
June 4 Tienanmen Square anniversary in Hong Kong. Perhaps the last time they will be able to do this. https://t.co/sLUGom5nAa
— Sridhar Venkatapuram (@sridhartweet) June 4, 2020
Thousands of demonstrators in Hong Kong defy ban to attend Tiananmen Square vigil https://t.co/mTlJ9aqTvh
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 4, 2020
“We are afraid this will be the last time we can have a ceremony but Hong Kongers will always remember what happened on June 4,” Brenda Hui, 24, said.
China has solidified its grip on Hong Kong in recent months. The city’s own legislature, now dominated by pro-China legislators, recently passed a law banning mockery of the Chinese national anthem.
Despite the crackdown, students in Hong Kong repainted, as is tradition, a Tiananmen memorial message on a college campus bridge: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre. Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evil.”
Rowena He of Chinese University of Hong Kong said Hong Kong faces challenges, but should not be counted out yet.
“You cannot easily push people into darkness once they have experienced light,” she said.
“People in Hong Kong have persistently and collectively showed the world that there was something that cannot be crushed by guns, tanks and prisons: That is the human spirit for truth and justice.”
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