Hong Kong has banned a vigil for the victims of the brutal 1989 crackdown on protesters in Beijing. Pro-China groups have put on a carnival in the park where the anniversary would usually be commemorated.Police in Hong Kong arrested eight people on the eve of the 34th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in mainland China.

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Police said in a statement that four people were detained for allegedly disrupting order in public spaces or carrying out acts with seditious intent.

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Four others were taken away for investigation on suspicion of breaching public peace.

Activists begin hunger strike

The activists included Kwan Chun-pong and Lau Ka-yee, who were detained after appearing near the former site of the candlelight vigil to say they would not eat for about 24 hours to mourn the victims.

"We will now start fasting at 6:04 p.m.," Lau said with flowers in her hand, referencing the June 4 date of the crackdown.

They also held papers saying they were "in mourning of deceased and victims" of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Among the other protesters taken away were the artists Sanmu Chen and Chan Mei-tung.

Vigil used to draw tens of thousands

Demonstrators have for decades held a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park to commemorate the bloody crackdown on Chinese pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

Hundreds and possibly thousands of people were killed when Chinese authorities sent in tanks and troops to quash weekslong peaceful protests calling for political change.

The Tiananmen Square massacre is a highly sensitive topic for China's communist leadership, and commemoration of the deaths of protesters has long been forbidden in the mainland.

Hong Kong's annual vigil was banned following the imposition of a national security law in the semi-autonomous Chinese state by Beijing in 2020.

The law was introduced after massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and has since been used to silence or jail activists

Critics say the city's freedom of assembly that was promised Hong Kong when it returned to China from Britain in 1997 has been eroded.

Die-hard activists keep up pressure

This year's Tiananmen commemoration is expected to be muted and many Hong Kongers say they will mark the event in private ways to avoid arrest.

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) newspaper said that Victoria Park was taken over by pro-Beijing groups to hold a carnival celebrating Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule.

Organizers say it will feature a bazaar with food from across China and will run until Monday.

SCMP said police officers wearing bulletproof vests patrolled the park and nearby streets and an armored vehicle was stationed outside one of the entrances.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday that the Tiananmen Square victims' "bravery will not be forgotten."

He added that Washington would "continue advocating for people's human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world."

mm/nm (AFP, AP)

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jun 04, 2023 02:00 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).