June 4 vigil goes online for the first time

Senado Square, Macau, last night

The city’s annual June 4 vigil was forced to run online this year, following the serial denial by the authorities of commemorative events relating to the incident that happened in Beijing 31 years ago.
Lawmakers António Ng Kuok Cheong and Au Kam San have been the backbone of these events for many years. The events include an exhibition that takes place at different locations across the city, as well as a vigil held on the evening of June 4.
For the first time in 31 years, the city’s government banned both events. The reason the authority gave was to safeguard public health given the Covid-19 pandemic. They noted that both the exhibition and the vigil would, if approved, break of infection control.
Two days ago, the police department even issued a note to remind people not to gather at the Senado Square.
Last night, when no vigil or other civil assembly was taking place at the Senado Square, the police department still deployed a team of about 50 officers in uniform, with an unknown number of those not in a uniform, to the Square.
Once people gather in groups of three people or so, police officers would interfere and ask the group to disperse. As per observation by the Times last night, even people having small-group conversations with beer cans in their hands were also asked to disperse.
A person who requested to remain anonymous said that the police’s operation was completely unnecessary. “I think they’re doing it for an obvious reason,” the resident said. “Honestly I think there are more journalists than people actually coming here for [today’s vigil].”
The observer was there by herself and stressed that she was not following anybody’s call. She simply wanted to commemorate the incident.
Meanwhile, the online vigil organized by Ng and Au accepted only 10 people at a location of which the address was not publicized.
As of yesterday, the city has had 57 days in a row without a new infection. All 45 of the city’s infections were either imported or connected to an imported case. Not to mention the strict border and quarantine control measures that have been enforced since late January.
As Ng is part of the organizing body for the annual event, he posted an article on his social media bearing his name on the letterhead. In the article, he says “the devil’s claw that suppresses freedom of expression” has come to Macau, referring to the ban on this year’s commemorative events due to the pandemic.
Ng pointed out that efforts for democracy in the city should not be paused, saying “Macau people are fed up with corruption and the hurting of public interests due to the small-circle election.”
Slightly optimistic, he believes that if the disease disappears or is at least contained, the city will be able to hold its annual vigil physically next year.
The Macau Conscience submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Commission regarding the persecution of the commemorative events. It referred to the ban as “political censorship” and asked the UN sub-body to request an explanation from the Macau government.
Thirty-one years ago when the incident took place in Beijing, Ng organized the city’s first protest at the Ruins of St Paul’s. Despite the hoisting of typhoon signal No. 9 that day, the event attracted an attendance of more than 10,000.
Several subsequent events held for the same reason that year attracted large numbers of people, except for one event that attracted 100,000 people.
According to All About Macau, two residents holding the famous Tank Man photo while walking around the Square were taken by police officers for investigation.

EU responds
to ban on vigils
At the same time, the European Union has made a comment on the situation in Macau and Hong Kong. “We trust that the people of Hong Kong and Macau will nevertheless be free to mark the anniversary appropriately,” EU spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson said.
The European body pointed out that law-enforcement authorities are using the Covid-19 pandemic “as an excuse” to ban the annual commemorations, citing unnamed critics.
“A clear commitment to fully respecting guaranteed rights and freedoms is now more important than ever in light of recent developments,” the EU added.

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