Macau police ban June 4 candlelight rally for the first time on the grounds of illegal incitement

Hong Kong and Macau were once among the very few regions in China that could openly mourn the June 4 incident, but for two years in a row their governments have banned local civic groups from holding June 4 candlelight vigils. This year, for the first time, the Macau police banned the June Fourth Candlelight Vigil on the grounds of epidemic prevention and raised the ban to the level of national security. Macau student organizations had to take another form to carry on the local tradition of commemorating June 4.

Last year, the Macau government refused to approve the June 4 rally for the first time on the grounds of epidemic prevention. This year, for the first time, the rejection of the application was elevated to the level of national security.

According to a reply sent by the Macau police to the Joint Committee for Democracy and Development on May 25, the central government has clearly qualified the June 4 incident as counter-revolutionary unrest. The June Fourth Candlelight Vigil of the ADPL has been falsely propagated with inflammatory pictures and texts, including “to pursue responsibility for the massacre, to stop political persecution, and to end one-party dictatorship”, etc. It also incites subversion of the regime and overthrow of the constitutional system, challenges the authority of the Central Government, is provocative and defamatory, and violates Macau’s “Criminal Code”.

Speaking to Voice of America, Au Kam San, president of the Macau Association for Democracy and People’s Livelihood, said the police decision was a political crackdown that not only violated the right to assembly, but also damaged the reputation of one country, two systems.

Au Kam San said, “The Macau government quoted the central government’s evaluation of June 4 many years ago, saying that those who participated were thugs who subverted the country, so our demand for the vindication of the 1989 pro-democracy movement is a slander against the central government, piling up this reason to say that our rally is illegal. We were also surprised. Our June 4 candlelight rallies have always been peaceful, rational and law-abiding, and we have never incited violence to overthrow the regime. It’s absurd to invoke this law (the criminal code).”

Ending the dictatorship is not the same as overthrowing the regime

Au Kam San refuted the Macau police’s claim that the June 4 rally was illegal and incited subversion of the regime.

He said, “Does ending one-party dictatorship undermine national security? Does it overthrow the regime? This is not necessarily the case. Political pluralism cannot be ruled out, and we have not used violence or incited others to use violence to overthrow the (Communist) regime. Building a democratic China can also be promoted by peaceful and rational means, and it is completely unjustified to say that we are violating the law.”

The Macau Democratic League has held June 4 candlelight rallies at the Senado Square forecourt in the city center for 30 consecutive years in the past. The outdoor candlelight rally was banned for the first time last year. The ADPL lost its appeal and the event was held indoors instead.

We have been holding candlelight rallies since 1990 and have been doing so for the past 30 years, and Macau’s criminal code was enacted in 1995 during the Macau-Portuguese era,” Au Kam Sun said. Whether it’s the Australia-Portugal era or the SAR. There is no violation of the law in our rallies. What we cannot accept is this. With no change in the law, (the candlelight rally) suddenly becomes illegal. It is impossible.”

The ADPL also applied to the authorities for a venue to hold a photo exhibition of the 1989 pro-democracy movement, but the authorities denied the application on the grounds that several venues had been scheduled for the event.

Au said, “There are two possibilities. First, only two places in the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong and Macau, are allowed to commemorate June 4 every year. The central government wants to tighten this policy. But it’s also possible that some officials in Macau think that this could be an opportunity to make merit.”

Macau police accused of “one-size-fits-all”

Veteran journalist Mai Yan Ting, interviewed by the Voice of America, condemned the Macau police for making a “one-size-fits-all” policy, which means that Macau will no longer be able to mourn June 4 in public.

Mak said, “This year, the Macau authorities have devoted a lot of space to explaining that the June 4 rally is actually illegal, and if it’s illegal, then you don’t have to apply for it again, because since it’s illegal, there’s no chance of holding it again. But the problem is that the Macau police are using some resolutions of the Chinese Communist Party to say that the 4 June incident has been qualified and cannot be talked about again. Since the 4 June incident was qualified as a counter-revolutionary disturbance back then, it is the same as saying that Macau has to accept this resolution of the Chinese Communist Party as well. This is completely contrary to ‘one country, two systems’.”

Mak Yan Ting criticized Macau’s move as tantamount to introducing China’s one-word style to Macau.

She said, “Because it says that the Chinese government has already qualified the 4 June incident and the number of dead and injured has been stated. The June 4 rally (in Macau), with its ‘massacre’ and ‘one-party dictatorship’ and even its advocacy of ‘Jasmine’, is tantamount to inciting subversion, which is tantamount to transferring the same set of rules from mainland China to Macau and not being able to publish comments and statements that differ from the central government’s views. This is very dangerous. No matter how little ‘one country, two systems’ is considered to be left now, what ‘two systems’ are left if Macau also has to accept the resolutions and statements of the Chinese Communist Party in its entirety?”

In the 1960s, leftist groups in Macau took advantage of the “Cultural Revolution” in China to introduce the “Cultural Revolution” struggle, and on December 3, 1966, crowds gathered in the city center and stormed the city hall and police station. The Portuguese and Australian governments declared martial law. Subsequently, the Governor of Macau signed a “letter of recognition of guilt”, which brought to an end a conflict that lasted more than two months.

The “January 23rd Incident” consolidated the influence of leftist forces in Macau. Historical factors have given Macau society a relatively strong sense of belonging to China.

The Chinese government often uses Macau to criticize Hong Kong for its shortcomings,” said Mak Yin Ting. If this is the case in Macau, what will happen to Hong Kong? Can Hong Kong be different? Hong Kong and Macau are both special administrative regions under China. If Macau has to accept the Chinese Communist Party’s decision in its entirety, should Hong Kong do the same? If that happens, ‘one country, two systems’ will be completely gone.”

Macau media personality Cui Zizhao told Voice of America that after Macau police refused to approve the June 4 rally, a number of related messages appeared on social media sites, suspected to be defending the authorities’ decision.

Cui Zizhao said, “There are a large number of suspected fake accounts that keep flooding with messages, which are all seen on Facebook, and the general content is similar to what the police said, such as ‘hold the massacre accountable’ and ‘end one-party dictatorship. These contents are in violation of the national security law or the Macau criminal code or something like that, leading public opinion (that) it is reasonable to say that the June 4 party was banned in Macau. It’s hard for me to confirm who is doing this kind of thing, but in terms of suspicion, it’s very likely that the establishment (pro-Beijing) associations or the officials would send people to do these things.”

Macau students deeply influenced by Hong Kong’s anti-China campaign

While the June 4 candlelight vigil of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong was banned. The “Macau Students’ Concern Group Alliance”, a group of students from universities and secondary schools in Macau, launched a social media campaign called “Citywide Black Clothes and Black Mask”. The group, which was founded only three months ago, called on Macau citizens to wear black clothes and black masks on June 4 to commemorate June 4. The convenor said that as a Macau resident, born in Macau, a land where the 4 June incident can still be said, he hopes that through this action, the tradition of commemorating the 4 June incident in Macau will be passed on, so that the next generation can understand the truth of the 4 June incident.

Media personality Chui Tze Chiu believes that the anti-Send-China movement in Hong Kong two years ago has affected the thinking of many Macau students.

He said, “Many Macau students were infected by the anti-Send-China movement in Hong Kong in 2019. Many messages of the Hong Kong protest were actually seen by Macau students. there were people who wanted to show solidarity with Hong Kong by taking action in August 2019 at the Senado Square forecourt in Macau, but they were banned by the Macau police, and as far as I know, the initiators were students at that time, and there were also students who wanted to make a lenon wall, but they were detected by the sky-eye system of the Macau police, and then they were banned immediately.”

The convenor of the “Macau Students Concern Group” had agreed to be interviewed by Voice of America, but on May 27, the group’s Facebook account suddenly ceased to function, which Chui believes is related to the pressure the group is receiving from the authorities.

In Macau’s law, it is not illegal for me to wear a black dress and a black mask, but the police may interfere and intimidate by various means when they arrive,” said Chui Tze-Chao. If the police see someone wearing a black mask walking by in the front of the council pavilion, they may ask him to show his ID card and check his information or something like that.”

Hong Kong police refused to take a stand on whether the June 4 rally was illegal

On May 29, the Appeal Board rejected the appeal on the grounds that the rally posed a threat to public order and safety and that the progress of vaccination was not satisfactory. The Hong Kong police refused to respond to media questions about whether the slogan “End One Party Dictatorship” was illegal.

The Chinese authorities can ban the June 4 rally, but they can’t wash their hands of the facts, said observer Mak Yin-ting.

She said, “If the Chinese government thinks it can suppress a certain type of people, it seems that this incident (the June 4 Incident) will not happen, and even after a period of time, people will forget about it, but in fact it will not. Especially now is the age of the Internet, how can you possibly think that if people don’t hold up candles in front of the Senado Square in Macau, they might forget 10 or 20 years later that the June 4 incident in 1989 that caused so many deaths and injuries in Tiananmen Square in Beijing and other places? It is simply impossible.”