Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has approved new laws that discourage criticism of the Chinese government. Vivek Prakash/EPA-EFE
May 27 (UPI) -- Hong Kong is forbidding citizens from gathering for an annual candlelight vigil in remembrance of victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre for the second year in a row, citing COVID-19 concerns.
Authorities in China's special administrative region said Thursday the candlelight vigil in the city's Victoria Park is banned because COVID-19 concerns remain at the highest "emergency" level, Hong Kong's independent news service RTHK reported.
The candlelight vigil was held every year since 1990, until last year, when the event was officially canceled because of the pandemic.
Activists are not happy with the decision.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the vigil organizer, said it would appeal the ban.
"Remembering June 4 is the collective memory of Hong Kong people," the group said.
Hong Kong Security Secretary John Lee said if the vigil is held it would be considered an unauthorized assembly. Promoting the vigil could also run afoul of local laws, Lee said.
Last year thousands of people defied the ban and gathered for the annual vigil in Victoria Park, including Joshua Wong, a prominent pro-democracy activist. Wong was recently sentenced to more time in prison.
Hong Kong's national security law has been cited in arrests of other activists. Earlier this year, 47 advocates for democracy were charged with violating the law, according to NPR.
Hong Kong's pro-Beijing chief executive scored another victory Thursday, after its parliament passed an electoral reform bill that would prevent people Xi Jinping's government deems "unpatriotic" from serving in the legislature, the BBC reported.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam is to sign the bill into law.
Lam claimed the new law would not exclude potential candidates but rather ensure the process rules out "non-patriots" opposed to China, according to the report.
Lam also said "anti-China forces" had created chaos in Hong Kong's Legislative Council, according to RTHK Thursday.