Banning annual vigil to remember Tiananmen Square is just another sign of China's crackdown

They are claiming it is because of the pandemic, but those planning to remember Tiananmen Square in Hong Kong tomorrow believe banning their annual vigil is just another sign of China's crackdown.

In the past two weeks the city has seen a bill outlawing criticism of the Chinese National anthem brought before it’s legislative council.

It carries a penalty of up to three years in jail for insulting the ‘March of the Volunteers’.

The Tiananmen Square memorial in Hong Kong has been banned. Credit: ITV News

A new national security law has also been rubber stamped in Beijing, without even reaching the debating chamber in Hong Kong.

It seeks to criminalise any form of dissent, and now this important commemorative event has been cancelled.

The threat of arrest is not going to stop them attempting to gather. They say it feels more important than ever to remember.

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When the protests erupted in Hong Kong this time last year, parallels were drawn to the 1989 demonstrations in Beijing. They too were a student led pro-democracy movement. They had been going on for months when overnight into June 4th the tanks rolled in.

The Communist Party had lost its patience and moved to crush the protesters. Hundreds of thousands had taken over Tiananmen Square, some staging a lengthy hunger strike in their determination for democracy.

An official death toll has never been given but it’s thought thousands of mostly young people lost their lives and thousands more were injured. China has sought to erase the massacre from the history books. It is not taught in schools, information is censored online and the square itself remains off limits to journalists.

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The prospect of such a thing happening in Hong Kong seemed unimaginable. It is part of China, but a bastion of freedom and autonomy. A legacy from British rule and a guarantee given for 50 years in the 1997 handover agreement.

Under President Xi that autonomy has started to erode at a faster pace and now it appears under sustained attack.

Last week almost 400 people were arrested, many of them school children, for protesting against the national anthem bill. The thousands of officers that flooded the streets that day indicated a change in tactic, some commenting it resembled a police state.

Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam was in Beijing today for further discussions about the new national security law.

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She is but a mere bystander in this process and it seems no amount of international condemnation or appeals from the UK Government will prevent it from being implemented.

Beijing appears impervious to criticism and unconcerned about China's global reputation.

To have introduced such a law in the wake of a pandemic and without any consultation or debate in Hong Kong indicates that perhaps patience is once again wearing thin. An ominous thought on the eve of June the 4th.