But this year, the candlelit vigil in a downtown Hong Kong park that draws tens of thousands has been cancelled, for the second year in a row.
A vigil was held in defiance of a ban in 2020, which the authorities said was because of Covid-19, but anyone who participates on Friday’s anniversary has additionally been threatened with a jail term of up to five years.
The ban comes as Hongkongers reel from having their freedoms curtailed over the past year after Beijing imposed a national security law that makes it easier to stamp out dissent.
“Now, even sitting in the park and lighting a candle may be considered a violation of the national security law, which doesn’t make any sense,” said Jerry Yuen, the founder of a local activist group that campaigns for the rights of Xinjiang’s Uighurs.
Remembering the anniversary “will empower and unite the people,” he said. “This year’s June 4th is not just China’s June 4th; it belongs to Hong Kong, too.”
He said he will go to one of several churches that plan to hold services on Friday evening to commemorate the crushing of student-led protests by Chinese soldiers in 1989. The death toll is still unknown, but it is estimated hundreds or thousands of workers and residents died in the crackdown in Beijing.
Other public commemoration of the massacre has been all but stamped out in Hong Kong this year.
Police have refused permission for the vigil, which dates back to 1990, citing a threat to public health and Covid-related restrictions that ban gatherings of more than four people. Hong Kong has not recorded any local Covid-19 transmissions without a clear trace for more than 40 days.
Authorities have said people face up to five years in prison if they participate in the unlawful assembly, and one year for publicising it. Some 3,000 police officers will be on standby around the park.