Hong Kong has banned an annual Tiananmen Square vigil for the first time in 30 years, as residents rushed to apply for passports that could allow them to move to the UK.
The vigil, which draws huge crowds to an outdoor space each year, marks the deadly military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.
However, police said the vigil would violate coronavirus lockdown rules that ban gatherings of more than eight people.
Image: The vigil attracts thousands of people every year
It comes as groups of people lined up at DHL courier outlets across the city to send documents to the UK to apply for or renew what is known as a British National (Overseas) passport.
The surge in passport applications came after Britain said last week it may allow holders of the document to stay in the country for a year or more.
The proposal followed China’s legislature deciding it would enact a national security law for Hong Kong, aimed at clamping down on a pro-democracy movement that has at times lead to violent clashes between protesters and the police.
The BNO passport was issued to Hong Kongers when it was a British colony and allows them to visit the country for an extended period but does not offer them citizenship rights.
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Currently, BNO passport holders can remain in the UK as visitors for six months without a visa.
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Home Secretary Priti Patel said Britain’s plan to allow them to stay in the UK for longer could include options that offer a route to citizenship.
As of February, nearly 350,000 Hong Kong residents held BNO passports and the UK government estimated that there are around 2.9 million people in the city who are eligible for the passport.
Image: Protesters march during a pro-democracy rally against a proposed new security law in Hong Kong
Meanwhile, organisers of the officially blocked vigil have expressed disappointment over the decision.
Lee Cheuk-yan, chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, urged people to light candles individually and observe a moment of silence.
Image: Hundreds of protesters broke coronavirus lockdown restrictions to publicly condemn the new security proposals
And Amnesty International said authorities should facilitate a socially distanced vigil rather than ban it altogether.
“COVID-19 must not be used as an excuse to stifle freedom of expression,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, the group’s deputy director for East and Southeast Asia.
“With this ban and a disastrous national security law looming, it is not clear if Hong Kong’s Tiananmen vigil will ever be allowed to take place again.”
Source : Sky News