Worrying over future, Hong Kong defies ban to mark Tiananmen

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Pan-democratic legislators observe one minute of silence for the 31st anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown before a Legislative Council meeting to debate national anthem bill in Hong Kong, Thursday, June 4, 2020. On the anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown, Hong Kong continued debating a contentious law that makes it illegal to insult or abuse the Chinese national anthem. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

BEIJING

HONG KONG (AP) — Thousands of people in Hong Kong defied a police ban Thursday evening, breaking through barricades to hold a candlelight vigil on the 31st anniversary of China's crushing of a democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

With democracy snuffed out in the mainland, the focus has shifted increasingly to semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where authorities for the first time banned the annual vigil that remembers victims of the 1989 crackdown.

Beijing is taking a tougher stance following months of anti-government protests last year, in what activists see as an accelerating erosion of the city’s rights and liberties. Earlier Thursday, the Hong Kong legislature passed a law making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem. Pro-democracy lawmakers had disrupted proceedings to try to prevent the vote.

Despite the police ban, crowds poured into Victoria Park to light candles and observe a minute of silence at 8:09 p.m. (1209 GMT, 8:09 a.m. EDT). Many chanted “Democracy now”and “Stand for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”