Antigone in Hong Kong 

Hong Kong has its own Antigone and her name is Chow Hang-Tung. I had never heard of her until June 4, 2021.  Every year from 1989 until the start of the pandemic, Hong Kong has commemorated the Tiananmen Massacre with a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park on June 4. Though attendance had been dwindling through the years, the vigil is a proud tradition and one that marks Hong Kong as unique, because nowhere else within China can the events of Tiananmen be openly acknowledged, much less memorialized. This changed, however, in 2020, with the passing of the National Security Law (NSL). Ostensibly a law to criminalize subversion and protect the integrity of the state, many understood it to be a weapon to stifle dissent of any kind. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly, rights once guaranteed by Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, have been superseded by this new law.  As a consequence of the NSL, these freedoms can now only be exercised in a context in which they do not threaten the status quo as defined by China. Given Beijing’s resolute denial of the events of Tiananmen in 1989, convening a commemoration on June 4 in this new environment could well be deemed subversive, though, interestingly, applications to hold the vigil as usual in 2020 and 2021 had been denied on public health grounds and not on political grounds. While there was no official indication that approval had been withheld because the vigil contravened the National Security Law, the excessively large police presence in the vicinity of Victoria Park on the night of June 4, 2021 was sending a rather different message, as was Chow’s arrest on the morning of the same day.  Chow is the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements

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