Organizer to appeal police ban on 31-year-old Tiananmen vigil

Au Kam San, lawmaker and co-organizer of the annual June 4 vigil in the city, has informed the Times that he will file a judicial appeal in response to the Public Security Police Force’s (PSP) decision not to allow the event to proceed on the grounds of Covid-19 pandemic control.
The news was first reported by Portuguese public broadcaster TDM. When asked by the Times to verify the news, Au gave an immediate confirmation. “Yes,” the lawmaker said, without even hearing the entire question. “We received a letter of denial from the police.”
Inheriting laws from the pre-1999 Portuguese government, organizers of civil assemblies and protests in Macau do not need to apply for permission. Instead, the organizing resident is only required to notify the competent authority no earlier than 15 days prior to the event.
Notice was to be made to the municipal authority, according to the law, be that the City Council before 1999, or the Provisional City Council, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau or the Municipal Affairs Bureau after 1999. Last year, the law was changed and the competent authority became the PSP.
At yesterday’s police press conference, the PSP said that the department has consulted the Health Bureau and that, in view of the current Covid-19 situation, it has decided to ban the demonstration. As to which law the PSP has cited in order to back up the ban, the PSP did not make any further statement during the press conference. No further comments were given.
Local democrat Kam Sut Leng was not convinced by the police’s explanation. “We have seen more than 40 days without a new Covid-19 case already,” Kam noted. “We are even seeing schools resuming and business running nearly as normal.”
Some commentators yesterday contrasted the decision to prohibit the vigil with the greenlight given to the Dragon Boat Festival later that same month.
In Kam’s opinion, prohibiting the vigil citing the pandemic as a reason is a bad and dangerous precedent to set.
“Selectively obstructing events because of that reason is a repression of civil society and violation of freedom of speech,” the democrat pointed out. “The vigil has been extremely peaceful and orderly in the past 30 years.”
Au was forced to suspend his annual June 4 exhibition as the Municipal Affairs Bureau earlier reversed its initial green light for the event. Since the event is not a civil assembly or protest, it is not governed by the aforementioned law.
Although not an organizer, Kam is supportive of filing a judicial appeal to the administrative decision, an action that is inscribed in the law. The democrat fears that the administration will use other excuses to ban similar events in the future, further persecuting legal human rights. “The court is a reliable third-party to make a judgment,” Kam said.
This view is shared by Au, as he told the Times that he would file an appeal to the court to challenge the administrative decision. He explained that, according to the law, the Court of Final Appeal, which is the body handling cases of this nature, is required to make a judgment within five days of the receipt of the appeal. Au disclosed that he is preparing the papers now.
The lawmaker said he and his colleague, lawmaker Ng Kuok Cheong, have faith in the judiciary to rule sensibly on the matter. “We trust the impartiality of the court,” Au said. “But it’s too early to discuss a judgment – we haven’t even got our papers ready.”
Last year, the vigil attracted about 100 to 150 participants. With the exception of a few years, the number of participants has been in decline lately. Au said that he was not surprised by this, since, “after all, three decades have passed since the incident.”
“Considering the political environment of the city, I understand why residents have opted not to participate,” he added, speaking to Hong Kong media HK01.
However, he stressed in the interview that the non-participation of residents should not be interpreted as a lack of support for democracy in Macau.
The annual vigil is organized by the Association for Democratic Development of Macau, which is headed by Au and his decades-old ally, Ng Kuok Cheong. The organization was formed principally in support of the development of democracy in Macau and on the mainland.
Thirty-one years ago, Au and Ng co-organized an assembly at the Ruins of St Paul’s on May 20 in support of the student protest in Beijing. The city saw typhoon signal No. 9 hoisted that day, as well as 10,000 people participating in the event.
A series of protests were held after that in the same year, with the most populous one reaching a count of 100,000 participants.
The vigil has not always been held at its present Senado Square location. It was first held at the Ruins of St Paul’s for several years, before moving to Senado Square. In some of the intervening years, the vigil was moved to the St Dominic’s Church Square, so as to give way to a Children’s Day celebration held on exactly the same evening. In 2014, the vigil was allowed once again to return to Senado Square. Anthony Lam, Julie Zhu

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