This article has been updated with the latest information.
The annual vigil in Hong Kong is the only public commemoration of the event in Chinese-ruled territory; the 1989 pro-democracy protests that were brutally suppressed by the Chinese regime are a taboo subject in mainland China. Hong Kong police had banned the event, citing concerns about the spread of the CCP virus.
Locals had expressed concerns that this could be the last time a public event could be held, in light of Beijing’s decision to enact a national security law in Hong Kong to penalize any activities the Chinese regime deems as “secession, subversion, infiltration, or sabotage.”
Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the organizer of the annual rally since 1990, lit the first candles at around 6:30 p.m. local time near a water fountain at the park, before entering the park’s football pitches despite barricades set up by local authorities.
Members of the alliance were joined by hundreds of locals, despite the presence of riot police officers at roads near the park.
Hong Kongers flock to Victoria Park to honor #TiananmenMassacre anniversary with a candle light vigil – despite government's cancellation of the annual event for the first time in 31 years. pic.twitter.com/8ad4VZTfyp
— The Epoch Times Hong Kong (@EpochTimesHK) June 4, 2020
The vigil officially began at 8 p.m. local time. A moment of silence was observed for the victims at 8:09 p.m.
Unlike the vigils of past years, people did more than remember the victims. They also took the opportunity to voice their demands as part of a local pro-democracy movement against Beijing’s encroachment, which erupted in June 2019 over a since-scrapped extradition bill.
Joe, who took part in a vigil at the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood, said the goals of Hong Kong’s movement and the 1989 protesters were one and the same.
“We’re all hoping for democracy and a free way of life. If we don’t remember history, perhaps in a dozen years, it will happen again,” he said.
Ms. Lam choked up as she recalled that night 31 years ago when she stayed up all night watching on television what happened in Beijing.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she told The Epoch Times. “How can lives be so hopeless? I never knew they would be so cruel.”
She expressed frustration about the police ban on an official rally.
“Why would such a humble hope be suppressed?” she said, though she was optimistic for the future of the Hong Kong movement. “Truth will always prevail. I put my trust in Hongkongers.”
Attendees at Victoria Park shouted slogans such as “Free Hong Kong, Revolution of Our Times,” “Vindicate June 4,” “End One-Party Dictatorship,” and “Opposition Against the National Security Law.”
“Glory to Hong Kong,” the unofficial anthem of the democracy movement, was also played.
Around 9 p.m. in the Mong Kok district, demonstrators tried to set up road barriers, according to local media. Plainclothes police officers soon deployed pepper spray and subdued several individuals.
Earlier in the day, the city’s legislature, with a pro-Beijing majority, passed a controversial national anthem bill, which would punish anyone guilty of showing disrespect toward the Chinese national anthem. It would also require schools to teach the history of the anthem and the Chinese Communist Party’s “etiquette for playing and singing the national anthem.”
Attendees expressed worries about Hong Kong’s future in light of Beijing’s recent move. “Our old way of life in Hong Kong was [that] you can say whatever you want. … Unless you want to cancel one country, two systems—otherwise, it’s wrong to not allow people to speak up,” Joe said.
Ms. Lee, who also attended the vigil at Tsim Sha Tsui, said she believed it was her responsibility to remind the next generation of “how authoritarian the [Chinese] regime is.”
“It’s becoming even more oppressive now and even wants to silence us, but people’s voices only grew louder,” she said, referring to the ongoing protest movement. “The more you forbid them, the louder the voices of resistance.”
In Taipei, Taiwan, around 2,000 people gathered for a vigil at One Liberty Plaza.
Wu Renhua, who witnessed the massacre and escaped China with the help of people from Hong Kong, said he was glad to see the vigil at Victoria Park. He warned that if not stopped, the regime would use similar tactics to suppress dissent.
“The June 4 massacre is not history, it’s a reality,” he said in a speech.
The Hong Kong edition of The Epoch Times contributed to this report.