5,000 Hong Kong police officers to patrol streets to guard against unauthorised gatherings on anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown

  • Officers will patrol streets, set up roadblocks and conduct stop-and-search checks at ‘high-risk locations’ over weekend, according to sources
  • Security around Victoria Park, where the annual commemorative candlelight vigil used to take place, will be ramped up, insider says

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A carnival organised by pro-Beijing groups will be held in Victoria Park over the weekend. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong police are planning to deploy as many as 5,000 officers over the weekend to guard against potential trouble and unauthorised gatherings to commemorate the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, the SCMP has learned.

Sources familiar with police preparations said security would be ramped up around Victoria Park in Causeway Bay, where the annual candlelight vigil to mark the June 4, 1989 crackdown took place in past years.

A force insider said officers would set up roadblocks and conduct stop-and-search checks near the park.

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“We will enhance security and patrol other high-risk locations, such as the government headquarters in Admiralty and Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Ying Pun,” the source said on Thursday.

He said officers, including personnel from the Counter Terrorism Response Unit, would also carry out high-profile patrols at sensitive locations as early as Saturday, adding that a heavy police presence had a deterrent effect.

Another source said the force would take an “early intervention” approach, including stopping and searching suspicious people and preventing large crowds from gathering.

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“We don’t want to see a repeat of the chaos in 2019 [when the anti-government protests took place],” he said.

But he added that police preparations were subject to change as officers were still gathering intelligence to make risk assessments and monitoring any online posts calling on people to take to the streets on Sunday.

Hong Kong was the only city on Chinese soil to organise large-scale activities mourning those killed in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. Police banned the annual event in 2020 and 2021, citing public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Crowds gather in Victoria Park for the candlelight vigil in 2019. Photo: SCMP

But an estimated 20,000 people still went to Victoria Park in 2020. Among them were 26 opposition leaders who were later arrested and charged for their participation in an unauthorised gathering.

Last year, authorities decided to close sections of the park a day before the vigil after a man was arrested over calls made online to attack officers.

The commemoration is unlikely to go ahead again this year as part of the park is closed for renovations, while 26 pro-Beijing federations will jointly host a carnival at the venue from Saturday to Monday.

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A popular Hong Kong group purchase platform revealed on Wednesday night that a private screening of a documentary booked for June 4 has been cancelled, saying industry representatives advised the cinema to avoid public gatherings that day.

A check by the SCMP on Golden Scene Cinema’s Facebook account found comments associating the private screening with the vigil, with one saying: “Finally, there is a place to commemorate June 4.”

Another asked others to bring flowers and candles.

Workers prepare for the pro-China group’s carnival at the football pitch of Victoria Park in Causeway Bay. Photo: Sam Tsang

Chief Executive John Lee Ka-chiu earlier warned that police would take measures against lawbreakers without specifying if individuals’ acts of remembrance were illegal.

Security minister Chris Tang Ping-keung said people might want to take advantage of “a very special occasion” to do things that could threaten national security, including promoting Hong Kong independence or seeking to subvert state power.

He warned that those attempting such acts would be arrested or charged if sufficient evidence was found.

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