HONG KONG – Hong Kong police rejected an application Monday by organizers for an annual candlelight vigil marking the anniversary this week of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, as residents rushed to apply for passports that could allow them to move to the United Kingdom
It would be the first time in 30 years that the vigil, which draws a huge crowd to an outdoor space, is not held in Hong Kong. The vigil commemorates China's deadly military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
The decision follows a vote by China’s ceremonial parliament to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and enact national security legislation for the semi-autonomous territory. Democracy activists and many legal experts worry that the law could curtail free speech and opposition political activities.
Throngs of people lined up on Monday at DHL courier outlets across the city, many to send documents to the U.K. to apply for or renew what is known as a British National (Overseas) passport.
“My BNO passport expired in 2004, but at the time I didn’t renew it because I trusted China,” said 40-year-old Peter Chan, who works in asset management and waited in line for more than two hours.
Chan said he was worried about political and security issues in Hong Kong stemming from the national security law as well as a push by the territory’s legislature to enact a bill that would make it illegal to insult the Chinese national anthem.
Even though there is rising anti-immigrant and anti-Asian sentiment in the U.K., “it’s still better than Hong Kong,” he said.
“In Hong Kong, you never know what will happen tomorrow,” Chan said.