Each year at 8 p.m. each year on June 4, Hong Kong’s Victoria Park would see a pool of candles lit up. The defiant and somber scenery would be dedicated to the lives lost in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. They were student protesters who were killed by the military under the command of the Chinese Communist Party. 

On the eve of the vigil this year, Victoria Park is shut down and the Hong Kong police sent a warning. Its wording is nonspecific, but the implicit message is clear: prison time for vigil attendees and calls.

On June 3, the Hong Kong police issued a statement saying that they were aware of online calls to incite others to take part in unauthorized assemblies at Victoria Park and in Causeway Bay on June 4.

With COVID-19 risks as a justification, the statement added that people should, in their words, “refrain from participating in, advertising or publicizing any unauthorized assemblies and prohibited gatherings.”

And there is a warning for whoever may contemplate otherwise, quote, “Police will deploy adequate manpower in relevant locations tomorrow [June 4] and take resolute action to enforce the law, including making arrests,” end quote.

Last year, before the Tiananmen Square memorial day, Hong Kong cautioned that illegal assembly could result in an individual up to 5 years behind bars, while incitement brings a maximum sentence of twelve months in prison.

Then the city invoked section 17 of the Public Order Ordinance to close down Victoria Park’s central lawn, football pitches, and basketball courts. At the time, as Hong Kong Free Press reported, the public responded by walking down the streets with electric candles and flashlights on their mobile phones.

According to CNN, when asked about carrying flowers or sporting black this year, Senior Superintendent Liauw Ka Kei reiterated the jailtime warning for illegal assembly.

Liauw said police will also monitor attempts to call for assembly on the internet.

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