For the first time in 30 years, police in Hong Kong have denied permission for organizers to hold an annual vigil for victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The police force has cited concerns around the spread of coronavirus.
The rally has been held each year since 1990 to commemorate the crackdown on June 4, 1989 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Chinese military opened fire on Chinese citizens who were calling for economic and democratic reforms.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organized the vigil, told the South China Morning Post that alliance members still planned to enter Victoria Park to observe a moment of silence that night.
The alliance also asked the public to join an online gathering and light candles across the city.
NPR's Emily Feng reported that the move to deny the demonstration comes amid controversy surrounding a Chinese proposed national security law that could limit Hong Kong's autonomy.
The potential law has concerned pro-democracy advocates, and as Feng noted, "legal scholars question whether Beijing has the authority to impose this law on Hong Kong."
In justifying an earlier extension of restrictions to June 4, the police cited a lingering threat of spread of the coronavirus, The Guardian reported.
"Police believe the event will not only increase participants' chances of contracting the virus, but also threaten citizens' lives and health, thus endangering public safety and affecting the rights of others," police said, according to the newspaper.
Lee Cheuk-yan, who chairs the alliance that organized the event, told the South China Morning Post that he believes the government was using the pandemic to shut down the demonstration.
"We believe this is totally unreasonable and unscientific, because everything is normal in Hong Kong. They are just using this excuse to suppress our rally," Cheuk-yan said, adding that many other facilities had already reopened.