Hong Kong security chief issues warning over June 4 anniversary as pro-Beijing groups deny Victoria Park carnival aimed at blocking any vigil

  • Chris Tang says authorities will take ‘resolute action’ against anyone taking advantage of approaching ‘special occasion’ to threaten national security
  • Spokesman for carnival organisers deny three-day event aimed at blocking any possible gathering to mark Tiananmen Square crackdown

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Hong Kong residents gather for the June 4 vigil at Victoria Park in 2019. The event has not been held since that year. Photo: Winson Wong

Hong Kong’s security chief has warned that authorities will take “resolute action” against anyone taking advantage of “a special occasion” to threaten national security as the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown approaches on Sunday.

The warning by Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung on Monday came as a pro-Beijing group denied that a carnival it was co-hosting this weekend at Victoria Park, where residents had gathered to mark June 4 in the past, was intended to block any possible commemoration.

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Speaking to the press without naming the June 4 vigil, Tang said: “A very special occasion will arrive in the next few days. Many people might want to take advantage of this special occasion to do things that could threaten national security, such as promoting Hong Kong independence or seeking to subvert state power.

“I would like to tell these people: if you attempt such acts, we will take resolute action, arrest you and charge you if there is sufficient evidence.”

Asked whether it would be illegal for residents to wear black or hold a candle in Victoria Park on Sunday, Tang said authorities would take into account the intention and behaviour of individuals.

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For decades, residents held a candlelight vigil in the park in Causeway Bay every June 4 to remember those killed in the crackdown in Beijing.

The event was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which disbanded in 2021, and would regularly attract tens of thousands of residents.

But authorities refused to grant permission for the event in 2020 and 2021, citing the risks to public health posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. No organisation tried to host the vigil in 2022.

Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Authorities refused to grant permission for the June 4 vigil in 2020 and 2021, citing risks to public health posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

In March, three of the alliance’s core leaders were found guilty of failing to assist a police investigation into the group’s suspected violation of the national security law and jailed for four and a half months.

This year, 26 pro-Beijing federations will jointly host a carnival at Victoria Park from Saturday to Monday. Admission is HK$5 and residents must pay using their stored-value Octopus card.

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Stretching across four football pitches, the event will feature cultural dances and musical performances, as well as about 200 booths selling traditional handicrafts and snacks, according to the organiser.

A spokesman for the organisers on Monday denied the carnival was being held to block other uses of the space.

“The idea had never occurred to us. It is just a coincidence,” said Tang Ching-ho, also the first executive chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations.

Members of the groups organising the carnival this weekend met the press on Monday. Photo: Xiaomei Chen

“We hope our carnival can help boost the economy, bring happiness to Hong Kong people and achieve social harmony.”

He added that organisers intended to hold the carnival around the same time as the anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover, which is on July 1.

Tang Ching-ho declined to discuss the security measures authorities would have in place in case of protests or whether they would disallow people wearing clothes or holding props associated with June 4 to enter the carnival venue.

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A police spokesman said the force would not comment on operational deployments or whether the carnival organisers had contacted them for help in managing the crowd.

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, a former key member of the alliance, said he was not aware of any group trying to organise activities to mark June 4 this year.

“[This] is almost impossible given the prevailing political climate,” he said, adding groups had faced difficulties in trying to apply for permission to stage public events in recent months.

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