Farewell to Hong Kong and Its Big Lie

Earlier this month, a few days before I packed up my apartment and left Hong Kong, I made my way across the city to Victoria Park. For decades, the city’s residents would gather there in the thousands on the night of June 4 to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre, a moment of mass collective remembrance for those killed by Chinese forces in Beijing in 1989 and, though less so, a nod to the formative role that the crackdown played in the development of Hong Kong’s own prodemocracy movement. This year, the once-moving scene was entirely stamped out by the city’s more authoritarian turn.

At the park, the heavily equipped police outnumbered the journalists, who themselves outnumbered those there to remember the victims of Tiananmen. I was standing with two other reporters as well as two friends. This put us over the limit of four people allowed together outside under Hong Kong’s COVID policies. I walked away after being warned by police, but I continued typing notes on my phone. The effort was wasted: An officer told me that all five of us would need to provide IDs and answer questions. Even though I had moved, she informed me, I had been “seen with the group earlier.” About a dozen police officers and media-liaison personnel quickly surrounded us. It was almost as if public health was not really the reason for the encounter at all. I mentioned the obvious contradiction to one officer now standing just a few inches from me as my details were recorded. He replied with a flippant series of yeahs before backing up a few steps.

The moment was a mild inconvenience but nonetheless illustrative of the absurdity of the night. Elsewhere in Hong Kong that evening, police stopped and searched a car that drove near the park, its license plate reading US 8964, numbers that corresponded with the date of the massacre. One woman was questioned and warned for handing out blank sheets of white paper. Police told another woman to turn off the light on her mobile phone—some people had turned theirs on in lieu of the candles traditionally used to mark the Victoria Park vigil. When she asked why she needed to do so, the officer said it was in order to preserve her phone’s battery life. As to why, exactly, hundreds of officers surrounded the park, the government offered only that the police were responding to online rumors about a possible illegal assembly that needed to be thwarted.

In Hong Kong today, falsehoods, gaslighting, and endless fabrications such as these are equaled only by the cowardice of the people partaking in this insulting ruse, an infectious cascade of lies used by Hong Kong’s leaders, and their overlords in Beijing, to reimagine the past and justify the retooling of the city. One would think that the “patriots” deemed worthy of running Hong Kong and their swelling ranks of collaborators would be proud of their role in the dismantling of the city’s freedoms, jailing of its opposition, and overhauling of its institutions. Instead, they hide their motives behind unbelievable excuses and make their moves under the cover of darkness, treating Hong Kongers with visceral contempt, like a pack of gullible idiots…

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