Thousands of Hong Kong residents defied a government order to participate in a mass gathering and lit candles for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre victims.
The Tiananmen Square vigil is an annual event that remembers the pro-democracy protesters who lost their lives on June 4, 1989, when the military opened fire and killing thousands.
However, the vigil was banned this year because of social distancing rules as an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.
While the Chinese government seldomly mentions the massacre and the vigils, the only parts of China permitted to mark the anniversary are Hong Kong and Macau.
Normally, tens of thousands of people gather in Hong Kong to honor the victims, but it is reported that 3,000 riot police would be deployed to stop unplanned gatherings.
People gathered in Victoria Park are reported to have shouted pro-democracy chants, including “end one-party rule” in reference to the Communist Party’s monopoly rule in China, and “stand with Hong Kong”.
While the vigil happens in Victoria Park, many other candlelit events began popping up elsewhere in Hong Kong. Mongkok district had thousands of protesters where police are reported to have used pepper spray to disperse crowds.
In a BBC News report, the police made several arrests at the vigil, making it the first time there had been unrest at a Tiananmen gathering in Hong Kong.
Eight people are currently allowed to gather together under Hong Kong rules, however, police did say that if several groups are gathered in the same place for a “common purpose”, they will be moved along.
The Tiananmen Square protests began on April 15, 1989, where students led the protest and it continued until the government declared martial law on June 4, deploying the military to occupy central Beijing. The military used assault rifles and tanks to fire at protesters injuring and killing thousands.
The current protests today are ignited by a controversial new law that was passed in Hong Kong, making it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem.
When the law was approved, two of the legislators had to be escorted by security after they threw a disgusting liquid on the chamber floor in protest over China’s increasing control over Hong Kong.
The tensions are expected to rise as China draws up a new security law for Hong Kong.