The opposition, for its part, points to a political decision against a background of increased tensions in the territory. “Bars, restaurants, cinemas and various public places have all reopened in recent weeks… The shopping streets are crowded again. The epidemic is a pretext for the authorities,” many opponents of the Hong Kong government are outraged.
The vigil traditionally draws crowds to the island, the only place in China where Beijing’s bloody crackdown is also widely commemorated. Last year, the same meeting preceded seven months of protests in the territory against a law to facilitate extraditions to mainland China. Withdrawn under popular pressure, this text symbolized for many the Communist Party’s growing hold on the former British colony.
These months of social unrest led to an institutional coup in Beijing last week. The Chinese Parliament has bypassed Hong Kong institutions to pass a law to punish any act of dissent or subversion in the territory, theoretically the only one responsible for legislating in this area.
At 2878 to one, Chinese parliament adopts controversial Hong Kong measure
Taken by surprise, the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement denounced a coup de force de facto compromising the autonomy of the territory and signing the death sentence of the principle “One country, two systems” adopted at the time of the handover in 1997.
It was in an extremely tense context that the decision to ban the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park in the city centre took place. The Hong Kong executive denies giving in to pressure from Beijing. This would be a simple health precaution.
Meeting in spite of everything
While the pandemic is officially under control, five new cases of Covid-19 infection have been detected in two days. The authorities decided this morning to extend physical distancing measures by two weeks. But the opponents and organizers of the event are not deterred: the decision is political, according to them. They denounce an instrumentalization of the pandemic.
The organizers of the event promised to meet in Victoria Park on Thursday night. While they expect their demonstration to be dispersed by the police, they urge all Hong Kongers and supporters of the democratic cause around the world to light candles and place them in their windows.
It should be noted that in the other Special Administrative Region of China – the former Portuguese colony of Macau with a governance regime similar to that of Hong Kong – the traditional annual photography exhibition on the Tiananmen repression was also cancelled for the first time in 30 years.