As Hong Kong on May 19 extended the anti-virus measures limiting public gathering until June 4, the annual vigil marking the Tiananmen will likely not take place for the first time in 30 years. The candlelight vigil usually attracts huge crowds and is also the only place on Chinese soil where such a major commemoration of the anniversary is still allowed, however, due to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities decided to ban the vigil in a bid to contain the spread.
According to an international media outlet, last year, the gathering was especially large and came just a week before seven months of pro-democracy protests. The vigil led to clashes on the city’s streets and sparked the plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland. But with coronavirus spreading across the city, the authorities decided to extend the social distancing rules and banned more than eight people gathering in public.
While speaking to an international media outlet, Hong Kong’s health minister Sophia Chan said that the authorities have always been extending the measure on a 14-day basis as the general consideration is mainly on public health. The organisers reportedly said that they now expected authorities to refuse permission for the annual vigil, however, Lee Cheuk-yan, the chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China said they believe the chance is very slim for their application to be approved.
Lee added that if the candlelight vigil is banned, it is going to be a symbolic moment as the city has been doing it for the three decades. Lee also believes that Hong Kong citizens might light candles in their local parks.
The Tiananmen crackdown began in 1989 when China’s leaders sent tanks and troops to quell student protesters calling for democracy and an end to corruption. According to reports, hundreds were killed and more than 1,000 perished. Three decades on, the crackdown still remains one of the most sensitive subjects in mainland China, however, in the semi-autonomous city, the member of Tiananmen has been kept alive.
Meanwhile, even though Hong Kong authorities decided to extend the lockdown measure, the city has still managed to keep the virus in check. According to figures by worldometer website, Hong Kong has recorded just 4 deaths since the first case was reported in mid-February. The city at its peak registered just 82 new infections, which is its biggest single-day rise to date. The last person to die of coronavirus in Hong Kong was on March 13.