Hong Kong police detain two performance artists on Tiananmen anniversary eve

Police arrest performance artist Sanmu Chen (centre) in Causeway Bay near Victoria Park in Hong Kong on June 3, 2023, a day before the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. - AFP

Hong Kong, June 3, 2023 (AFP): Police detained at least two performance artists and two others in Hong Kong, according to AFP reporters on Saturday, the eve of the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing.

On a busy street in the commercial district of Causeway Bay, artist Sanmu Chen repeatedly chanted "Don't forget June 4! Hong Kong people, don't be afraid of them!"

An officer shouted at him to "stop uttering seditious words" before authorities bundled him into a police bus.

Another well-known performance artist Chan Mei-tung was also taken away.

Chan was standing and wandering around the bustling area before she was stopped and searched by police, AFP reporters witnessed.

Police also detained a young couple holding white chrysanthemums -- a flower typically used to signify loss and mourning.

When asked if they were being arrested, the flower-wielding man said "I have no idea" as he was taken away.

Thirty-four years ago on Sunday, Chinese troops and tanks broke up peaceful protests in Tiananmen Square, brutally crushing a weeks-long wave of demonstrations calling for political change.

Discussion of the June 4, 1989 crackdown is highly sensitive in communist China, and commemoration of the hundreds killed -- by some estimates, more than 1,000 -- has long been forbidden in the mainland.

For decades Hong Kong was the only Chinese city with large-scale public commemoration of the bloody incident -- a key index of liberties and political pluralism afforded to its semi-autonomous status.

Since 1990, an annual vigil has been held in Causeway Bay's Victoria Park, drawing tens of thousands to a candlelight memorial.

But in 2020, a national security law was imposed on the city by Beijing to quell dissent, after huge and at times violent pro-democracy demonstrations rocked the finance hub.

Since then, the vigil has been banned and its organisers arrested and charged under the security law.

Leading up to this year's anniversary, officials repeatedly refused to confirm if public mourning of the event was illegal, only saying that "everyone should act in accordance with the law". - AFP

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