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Hong Kong Police Arrested More Than 20 People For Trying To Remember China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre

For decades, Hong Kong had been one of the only places in China where the events could be remembered publicly with a candlelight vigil.

Hong Kong police detained more than 20 people who were attempting to mark the 34th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square massacre on Sunday June 4.

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HChan Po Ting, an activist and leader of League of Social Democrats, is detained by police officers at Causeway Bay near Victoria Park on June 4, 2023 in Hong Kong, China. (Photo by Sawayasu Tsuji/Getty Images)

The Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China, occurred on June 4, 1989, when Chinese government troops armed with assault rifles and tanks killed several thousand student-led pro-democracy demonstrators. 

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People hold candles as they gather in Mong Kok district to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, June 4, 2020. (Photo by Roy Liu/Bloomberg)

The 1989 incident is strictly censored in the mainland, but for decades, Hong Kong had been one of the only places in China where the events could be remembered publicly.

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People gather in Victoria Park to attend a vigil in Hong Kong on 4 June, 2019. (Photo by Vernon Yuen/NurPhoto)

In 2019, more than 180,000 people attended the annual vigil in Victoria Park.

hong kong tianamen vigil victoria park 2019
People attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 4, 2019, to mark the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown in Beijing. (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

However, the vigil was banned by officials over COVID restrictions in 2020 and 2021.

The organizers of the vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, also disbanded in 2022 after its leaders were arrested and jailed under the national security law, which was imposed by China in 2020.

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This year on June 4, police deployed armored vehicles and police vans around Victoria Park and conducted stop and search operations.

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A woman is detained by police officers at Causeway Bay near Victoria Park on June 4, 2023 in Hong Kong near Victoria Park on the anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre. (Photo by Sawayasu Tsuji/Getty Images)

Police said they arrested 23 people aged between 20 and 74 for “breaching the public peace”, while another 53-year-old woman was arrested for obstructing police officers.

Some of those arrested included prominent pro-democracy activist 67-year-old Alexandra Wong, known as “Grandma Wong”.

hong kong grandma wong arrested tiananmen 2023
Hong Kong police detain pro-democracy activist Alexandra Wong, known as Grandma Wong, at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, China on Sunday, 4 June 2023. (Photo by Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

Others who were detained included a man who held a copy of “35th of May”, a play about the Tiananmen Square massacre and an elderly man who was standing alone on a street corner with a candle, according to Reuters.

hong kong man arrested tiananmen anniversary 2023
Police stop and search residents at Causeway Bay in Hong Kong on Sunday, June 4, 2023, the 34th anniversary of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre. (Photo by Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

Sanmu Chan, a performance artist, yelled, “Hong Kongers, don’t be afraid! Don’t forget June 4,” as he was taken away by police officers.

“The regime wants you to forget, but you can’t forget… It (China) wants to whitewash all history,” Chris To, a 51-year-old man who visited the park in a black t-shirt and was searched by police, told Reuters. “We need to use our bodies and word of mouth to tell others what happened.”

In Taiwan, hundreds of people held a vigil in the capital of Taipei.

taiwan tiananmen square vigil 2023 hong kong banned
Two girls place electric candles on the floor at the Liberty Square in Taipei, Taiwan, on June 4, 2023 during a commemoration of the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre that took place on June 4th, 1989 in China. (Photo by Ceng Shou Yi/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Taiwan is now the only Chinese-speaking country left that can publicly mourn the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

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