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DEATH OF DEMOCRACY: Victoria Park in Hong Kong empty for the first time on anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre

In a shocking photo contrasting previous years, Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, which is the traditional site of an annual vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, lies empty as police force out mourners.

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Hannah Nightingale Washington DC
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In a shocking photo contrasting previous years, Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, which is the traditional site of an annual vigil for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989, lies empty as police force out mourners.

The combination of photos, gathered by AFP, showcases the years 1990, 1999, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020, as well as 2021.

Previous years show a packed park with thousands of candles lit in memory of those killed. The gathering, banned in mainland China, has traditionally been observed in Hong Kong, who in recent years had felt the tightening grip of China’s Communist Party.

In 2020, the park, although not as packed as previous years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, still shows some mourners in attendance.

In 2021, police cracked down on the gathering, and according to Yahoo News, citing the violent pro-democracy protests Hong Kong has seen in recent years as the reasoning behind closing the park.

"Activists who approached the park were stopped and searched while officers used loud hailers and signs to call for people to disperse from nearby streets," wrote Yahoo News.

According to the AFP Bureau Chief of the agency’s Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Macau branch Jerome Taylor, all photos were taken between 8-8:09pm, where crowds would normally light their candles.

"Tonight, they are lighting them on the streets and in their homes instead," wrote Taylor.

"A Hong Kong park that traditionally hosts huge vigils on the anniversary of China’s deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown lay empty for the first time late Friday as police blocked access," wrote Taylor. "But flashes of defiance still flickered across the city."

According to Yahoo News, at 8pm in the city’s shopping district of Mong Kok, dozens reportedly turned on their cellphone flashlights in a move of defiance.

In response to pockets of protests in the streets, Hong Kong Police issued a statement reminding citizens that many of the chants they used were in violation of national security laws.

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