Police pepper spray Hong Kongers defying ban to mark Tiananmen

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HONG KONG: Police pepper-sprayed some Hong Kong protesters yesterday who defied a ban to stage candlelight rallies in memory of China’s bloody 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy crackdown, accusing Beijing of stifling their freedoms too.

Scuffles broke out briefly in the working-class Mong Kok area where hundreds had gathered and some demonstrators tried to set up roadblocks with metal barriers, prompting officers to use spray to disperse them, according to media witnesses.

It was the first time there had been unrest during the annual Tiananmen vigil in Hong Kong, which police had prohibited this year citing the coronavirus crisis. Several protesters were arrested, police said.

Earlier, a few thousand people joined a peaceful main rally in Victoria Park, many wearing masks and chanting slogans such as “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time” and “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

“We are just remembering those who died on June 4, the students who were killed. What have we done wrong? For 30 years we have come here peacefully and reasonably, once it’s over it’s ‘sayonara’ (goodbye),” said Kitty, a 70-year-old housewife.

The anniversary has struck an especially sensitive nerve in the former British-ruled city this year after China’s move last month to impose national security legislation and the passage of a bill outlawing disrespect of China’s national anthem.

It also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials voice support for protests in the United States against police brutality. —Agencies

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