Media reports in Hong Kong about police in plain clothes “collecting identities” during the annual vigil for Beijing’s Tiananmen Square victims have led to accusations of local authorities bowing to pressure from Beijing.
Ming Pao Daily and HK01 reported that at least one female constable, in plain clothes, approached students at the vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to “compile statistics” and jotted down the names of their schools. She was later seen entering a police command post inside the park.
The revelation sparked fresh concerns that the Hong Kong government had been instructed by Beijing to monitor and collect identities and other information about those at the vigil. There are fears that if the information was handed to Beijing it could compile or update a list of Hong Kong people and those from the mainland deemed to be opponents of the party’s rule.
Hong Kong has become the only Chinese city, following its 1997 handover from London to Beijing, where anti-Chinese Communist Party rallies and demonstrations can be held. The city’s government generally respects people’s freedom of speech and right to assembly and has not intervened with the June 4 vigil, even though such open condemnation of the party’s brutal crackdown has long been a thorn on Beijing’s side.
Hong Kong’s Secretary for Security John Lee noted in his reply to a Legislative Council enquiry about the matter that the police, both uniformed officers and plain-clothed ones, had a duty to take measures including crowd control and anti-crime/terrorism tactics to “manage” large scale assemblies to ensure order and peace.
“The woman referred to in media reports was one of the plain clothes police officers deployed to work on the spot. The police’s operational details on that day form part of the operational deployment and it is inappropriate for me to disclose,” said Lee.
Police officers would count the number of participants for the sake of crowd management and contingency plans, and information obtained did not contain any personal particulars, and those who suspected their personal information was collected illegally should contact police, added Lee.
Lee also told reporters that related media reports distorted some facts, but did not elaborate further. The organizer of this year’s vigil said there were about 115,000 people at the event at its peak.
Hong Kong’s first post-handover leader Tung Chee-hwa once asked the organizers of the vigil to cancel it so as not to provoke Beijing, but his request was rebuffed.
There have also been unconfirmed rumors that Beijing would dispatch its national security agents to Hong Kong during major rallies to collect information and gauge social sentiment.