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.”