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Organizers refuse to back down despite June 4 commemorations are banned

Organizers of the annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park held a long-distance running event on Sunday morning to commemorate the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China held the event in response to the government’s decision to extend its COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings of more than eight people to June 4 — an announcement that effectively upset arrangements for the yearly vigil.

The organizers said the event was held to honor the victims of the 1989 protests as well as to express solidarity with Chinese civil-rights activists and the 15 prominent pro-democracy figures who had been arrested in relation to recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Led by the alliance’s chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, the commemorative event started at 8:45 a.m. and saw groups of eight make their way from Victoria Park, where the vigil was held for the past three decades, to the Beijing’s liaison office in the city. Participants held banners and chanted slogans, including those that opposed the new national security law to be imposed by Beijing, while dozens of police officers appeared on standby.

Lee’s party completed the run at 10 a.m. while others finished around noon.

When asked about organizing a long-distance run during the coronavirus outbreak and under the muggy weather, Chow Hang-tung, the alliance’s vice-president, said: “Our sacrifice is very small compared to those who have sacrificed for the fight for democracy. It’s not a big deal to run and sweat a little.”

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Chow acknowledged people’s fear over the draft national security law imposed by Beijing, which will bypass Hong Kong’s legislature. She said that despite the increasingly tightened restrictions, people will find room to maneuver in terms of organizing and participating in pro-democracy events. “You don’t have to be on the frontlines, to be arrested or locked up, in order to support these activities.”

Richard Tsoi, the alliance’s vice-chairman, said the completion of the run under the hot and humid weather showed participants’ unity in fighting to vindicate the June 4 incident. Tsoi added that, on the day of the anniversary, people could still commemorate and light a candle wherever they are even if the vigil could not take place.

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Irene Leung

Irene Leung

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