Police fire pepper spray at HK protesters as they hold Tiananmen vigil

This article is more than 12 months old

HONG KONG: The police yesterday fired pepper spray at Hong Kong protesters who defied a ban to stage candlelit rallies in memory of China's 1989 crackdown in Tiananmen Square, while also accusing Beijing of stifling their freedoms.

Scuffles broke out in the Mong Kok district when demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers and officers used spray to disperse them, according to witnesses.

It was the first time there had been unrest during the annual Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong, which police banned this year, citing the coronavirus crisis.

Several thousand people joined the main rally in Victoria Park, chanting slogans such as "Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time" and "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong".

"We are just remembering those who died on June 4, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it's over it's 'sayonara' (goodbye)," said Ms Kitty, a 70-year-old housewife.

The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in Hong Kong this year after China's move last month to impose national security legislation and the passage of a bill outlawing disrespect of China's national anthem.

In Hong Kong, which just reported its first locally transmitted coronavirus cases in weeks, the police had said a mass gathering would undermine public health.

But many took to the streets to light candles and stand for a minute's silence. Seven Catholic churches opened their doors for memorials.

"We are afraid this will be the last time we can have a ceremony, but Hong Kongers will always remember what happened on June 4," said Ms Brenda Hui, 24.

She and a friend stood in Mong Kok with a white battery-illuminated umbrella that carried the message "Never Forget June 4". - REUTERS