Chiu Yan-loy, a community officer in Hong Kong’s Tsuen Wan district and former leading member of the now-disbanded Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, won’t be lighting candles in Victoria Park this year. The once-annual vigil commemorating those who died at the hands of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) as it crushed a weeks-long peaceful protest on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square has been effectively banned for the third year running. Chiu has already served eight months in prison for taking part in an unauthorized vigil in 2020. Instead, Hongkongers will be remembering the dead in private, amid a city-wide crackdown on public dissent under a draconian national security law.
Chiu Yan-loy: I have no regrets. It was an honor for me to be sentenced as a dissident-in-mourning on June 4. Commemorating the massacre in itself is not a crime, and making it one is political suppression and nothing more. I choose to stay in Hong Kong to endure this situation. More than 10,000 other people in Victoria Park at the same time of me also risked such charges. If I can carry the can for them, then that’s what I’ll do.
RFA: Will there be other events in Hong Kong?
Chiu Yan-loy: It’s a luxury to hold a ceremony like that in today’s Hong Kong. June 4 commemorations and candlelight vigils are a way of gathering a kind of strength. We won’t see June 4 rallies again in Hong Kong, nor any [public] mourning.
RFA: What can be done instead?
Chiu Yan-loy: When I was in prison, I realized that the most unbearable thing was the feeling of loneliness; a sense that nobody cared about me. Visiting inmates is similar to the spirit of mourning June 4. Spiritual support makes them understand that they are not alone … that there are still people who care about them. Helping them overcome their loneliness is the most important thing.
RFA: How are your former colleagues doing?
Chiu Yan-loy: I’m very sad that every one of them has wound up in jail or been suppressed in some way. However, I respect their choices. [Alliance leader Chow Hang-tung] had previously talked with me about her choices before [her prison sentences] and why she made them. I hope she has enough will-power to hang in there. I wish her well.
RFA: How are you doing?
Chiu Yan-loy: After I got out, I went back to the community to serve my residents through crowdfunding. There are many unknowns in the future, but I will keep up hope and perseverance. Hongkongers should have hope, and keep moving forwards.
(Original Published on Radio Free Asia on 2 June 2022)