Hong Kong had a tradition of commemorating the Tienanmen massacre every year on 4th June. This year, the Hong Kong government refused a letter of no objection to hold the protest in Victoria Park. Despite this, hundreds of protesters flooded the park, entering to hold their traditional vigil, hence keeping a flickering light alive for democracy.
Prohibition of gathering misused?
The regulation on prohibition of gathering was originally promoted as a response to the Wuhan coronavirus crisis, allowing to impose social distancing which is a known measure of prevention for respiratory diseases. However, as cases of coronavirus infections dwindled to insignificance, and with government allowing restaurants to extend capacity and nightclubs to reopen, this measure became controversial. During previous protests, police was indeed found to be using the prohibition of gathering to fine protesters even when they kept distant from each other.
Pro-democracy activists accused the government of prolonging the prohibtion of gathering for purely opportunistic reasons, namely, to prohibit the Tienanmen vigil. In a further extension, the HK government arranged to make 18 June the new date for expiry of the regulation (obviously hoping to cover the upcoming protests around the anniversary of the Tienanmen massacre).
As a “direct” consequence, the police refused to deliver a letter of no objection for the Tienanmen vigil. Despite this, the organizers announced that, on a private basis, they would still gather in Victoria park, at the announced time and place.
On the evening of the foreseen protest, a large crowd started marching from Causeway Bay towards Victoria park, quickly overwhelming any police cordon which still tried to block or regulate the flow of protesters.
You can have an idea of the atmosphere and the conditions in my live periscope filmed that day.
A flickering flame
While some protesters were keen on relating to “black lives matter” with some slogans related to the event, others were mostly trying to keep a flickering light alive.
Some people came in couples.
Other young ladies stood bravely with their lone candle in the dark.
Older participants were also present with their candles.
But all the protesters had a terribly oppressing feeling that this vigil might be the last one to which they might have the right to participate.
In a way, their fears were justified, as soon after the protest was over, the Hong Kong police announced it would charge the organizers with “inciting unlawful assembly”.
Previously marginal in its expression, the Independence movement made a big come-out during this vigil. Some 20-30 kids grabbed independence flags and made a couple of circles around Victoria park playgrounds.
At a point, however, a group of protesters started marching around Victoria Park to the cries of “Independence, the only way out” and “One Nation, One Hong Kong”.
With flags bearing the likeness of Edward Leung, this small group did a couple of circles around the playgrounds, before one individual stopped to give a long-winded speech and they all dispersed.
It is a measure of the despair of Hongkongers that they started recently to chant “independence the only way out”. But this is accompanied by a demobilization of the protesters called “frontliners”, who are seldom seen now in the streets.
Although some people believe that July and August should see again a resurgence of violent protests, this looks to be merely wishful thinking for now, at least.
Today, the real future of Hong Kong seems rather trying to be forgotten by the authorities. So, many protester tend to follow the example of the young man in this photo, with total facial covering, cleaning up their web history (but it is kept at ISP level) and trying to self-censor more.
The recent announcement of a national security law details seem to throw even more of a chill on HK, as dark days loom ahead. The flickering light seems about to go out.