Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam defends police action to close off Victoria Park on June 4, saying anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown could spur violent activism

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Hong Kong’s leader has defended a police move to shut down parts of a park used for an annual June 4 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, saying the politically sensitive date could have spurred activists to incite violence.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Tuesday it was the force’s responsibility to assess risks at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay as radicals had gone underground after the enactment of the Beijing-imposed national security law in June 2020.

“Police have always made risk assessments and conducted operations to protect Hongkongers, and as the chief executive, of course I support my law enforcement departments in taking this risk-oriented attitude,” she added.

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Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor addresses the media before an Exco meeting at the Central Government Office in Admiralty. Photo: Sam Tsang
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor addresses the media before an Exco meeting at the Central Government Office in Admiralty. Photo: Sam Tsang

Hong Kong had been the only city on Chinese soil where large-scale activities were held to mourn those killed in the 1989 crackdown. But for three consecutive years, local authorities have banned the annual June 4 vigil at Victoria Park, citing public health concerns amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Six people were arrested on Saturday night over efforts to mark the crackdown’s anniversary. They were detained on suspicion of committing offences including inciting others to participate in an illegal assembly.

On Tuesday at a regular press briefing before her cabinet meeting, Lam was asked about her views on the muted June 4 atmosphere. She said it was “not a matter of personal perspective”.

“After the security law was implemented two years ago, Hong Kong’s overall political situation remains stable. But the police commissioner, the secretary for security and I have reminded the public from time to time that we’re still facing many hidden threats,” she said.

Amnesty International slams arrest of 6 by Hong Kong police on June 4

Lam added that in the past two years, “radical acts of resistance have gone underground” and a lone wolf attack had also taken place, referring to the case of an assailant who seriously wounded a police officer in Causeway Bay on July 1 last year before stabbing himself.

“Police had also found a large amount of explosive materials last year and this year. So every time there are large-scale events or activities on sensitive dates, these occasions are very likely to be used to incite such elements to come out and engage in destructive acts,” she warned.

A man stabbed a police officer and killed himself in Causeway Bay on July 1, 2021. Photo: SCMP
A man stabbed a police officer and killed himself in Causeway Bay on July 1, 2021. Photo: SCMP

On Monday, Commissioner of Police Raymond Siu Chak-yee told the Post in an interview that he would not rule out closing off parts of the park next year if people continued to incite others to break the law, as the force was duty-bound to protect the safety of others.

“People are trying to make use of this platform to incite others to stage unauthorised assemblies. There is a possibility of some people committing or trying to commit violent acts, we cannot neglect this possibility,” he said.

On Saturday, several Western consulates, including that of the United States, Canada and the European Union office, commemorated the Tiananmen crackdown despite what sources said was a reminder from Beijing’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong not to openly do so.

Beijing’s Hong Kong office hits back at Western envoys over posts marking crackdown

Some consulates placed lighted candles by the windows of their offices, while others posted messages on social media marking the event.

In a statement issued on Saturday, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry office in Hong Kong said it “strongly condemned and firmly rejected the political tricks of a few foreign missions” in Hong Kong, urging them “to stop the botched political performances based on ideological differences”.

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