31 years ago, the Chinese government used military force to crush a pro-democracy movement that was growing in the country. The incident, known in the West as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, is known in China as the “June 4 Incident”. For the past 31 years, Hong Kong has held a vigil on the anniversary of the massacre to honor the pro-democracy protesters who were slaughtered.
However, in 2020, the vigil’s organizers were denied their usual permit. The state officially gave the reason as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. However, Hong Kong has been reporting very few cases in recent weeks. Pro-democracy organizers in the city suspected the state had more sinister motives. Recent civil unrest in Hong Kong has been pushing the city to fight for democracy, and even independence from China.
Vigil Continues Anyway
In spite of the state’s insistence, the vigil took place as planned on June 4. Thousands of protesters holding candles and practicing social distancing were seen in the city. Hammond Tong, speaking to the Washington Post, said that today’s protesters fight for the same thing that protesters fought for in 1989.
“The Chinese Communist Party has not changed one bit,” Tong told reporters. ‘[T]he oppression, suppression and persecution have only increased. We must not forget, nor can we stop fighting.” The protests were surprising, coming on the heels of Beijing’s attempts to stamp out Hong Kong’s freedoms.
Throughout the past month, protesters in Hong Kong have defied lockdown orders to stand against what they see as an erosion of their freedoms. Many continue social distancing even as they demonstrate, however.
Hong Kong Fights for Freedom
In late 2019, Beijing tried to foist an extradition law on Hong Kong that upset pro-democracy organizers. This led to widespread civil unrest in the city as protesters clashed with state forces. Instances of shocking police brutality in the city led to international condemnation of China’s handling of the protests.
Following the protests, China forced a controversial “national security” law onto Hong Kong. Protesters have noted that this undermines China’s “one country, two systems” policy regarding Hong Kong. When control of the city was handed from the British back to China in 1997, Beijing promised that Hong Kong would continue to enjoy their freedoms.
However, China has been gradually stripping Hong Kong’s freedoms away. The state had tried to criminalize any protest activity or speech that criticizes the government. These moves have drawn international condemnation. However, the US is currently facing its own widespread protests, making condemnation of China’s moves shockingly hypocritical.