Hong Kong pro-Beijing groups seek to hold carnival at former Tiananmen vigil venue during anniversary period

Pro-Beijing groups in Hong Kong are seeking to organise a carnival in part of Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park, where annual vigils were held for decades to mark the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. The event period is set to cover the crackdown’s 35th anniversary on June 4.

Victoria Park. File photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) told HKFP on Friday that an organisation had applied to use the football pitches, central lawn and basketball courts for a public event between May 27 and June 8. The application was being handled at the moment, the department said.

The department did not provide any further information.

Tiananmen vigil

The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.

The now-defunct Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China had organised annual candlelight vigils at Victoria Park for 30 years to commemorate victims of the crackdown.

Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.Photo: Todd Darling/HKFP.
Tiananmen crackdown vigil on June 4, 2019. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic and the implementation of the Beijing-imposed security law on June 30, 2020, Hong Kong – for decades – was one of very few places on Chinese soil that permitted public mourning of the crackdown, even though top officials had become more tight-lipped about the historical event.

But Hong Kong police banned the event for the first time in 2020 citing anti-epidemic public gathering restrictions. The alliance’s application to hold the vigil was rejected again in 2021.

After the alliance disbanded in September 2021 following pressure from the authorities and the arrest of the group’s leadership, no official commemoration had been scheduled in 2022 and 2023.

Last year’s carnival

In June last year, 26 pro-Beijing groups organised a patriotic carnival in Victoria Park between June 3 and 5 to celebrate the July 1 anniversary of the city’s Handover to China. More than 200 booths were set up by 26 local “hometown associations,” each of which represented a region in China.

Tiananmen crackdown vigil Victoria Park June 4Tiananmen crackdown vigil Victoria Park June 4
The carnival held in Victoria Park on June 3, 2023. Photo: Lea Mok/HKFP.

On Friday, HKFP contacted five hometown associations which took part in last year’s carnival. Three federations confirmed that a similar carnival will be held this year around the same time period. The other two groups said the event was not confirmed yet.

Ming Pao reported on Friday that a carnival will be organised between June 1 and 5, citing lawmaker Rock Chen, honorary chairman of the United Zhejiang Residents Associations (Hong Kong).

It would be led by the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations and the scale would be larger than last year, the legislator told Ming Pao. More booths may be set up and a greater variety of products may be available, he said.

Asked if the event was intentionally scheduled to cover the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary, Chan told Ming Pao that last year’s carnival was also held around that date and the organiser did not “target any particular date.”

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