May 19, 2020 / 9:32 AM / a month ago

Hong Kong extends coronavirus group restrictions, Tiananmen vigil at risk

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong on Tuesday extended a restriction on public gatherings for at least another two weeks as authorities still report new coronavirus cases occasionally, in a move that threatens the city’s annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown.

Every year on June 4 in Hong Kong, tens of thousands join a candlelight vigil in the biggest commemoration of the 1989 crackdown in which Chinese troops opened fire on student-led democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, organiser of the event, said it will hold a meeting on Tuesday night to decide on its plans.

The government will maintain a limit on public group gatherings to eight people expiring at the end of Thursday for an extra two weeks. Bath houses, karaoke bars and night clubs will stay closed for an additional week from Thursday.

Religious gatherings will resume with certain safety rules. Bars, cinemas and gyms re-opened earlier this month.

“We only have public health in mind and not other considerations,” Health Secretary Sophia Chan said in a news conference, echoing past remarks by Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam.

The number of coronavirus cases in Hong Kong has been dwindling, but on May 13 the city reported its first case in more than three weeks not linked to anyone who travelled overseas. Authorities are still unclear on its origins.

The Chinese-ruled city has so far recorded 1,056 cases, mostly imported, and four deaths.

With residents growing in confidence that the outbreak is coming under control, small-scale pro-democracy demonstrations have re-emerged in recent weeks, with police breaking up some of them and giving out fines for violations of the gathering rules.

Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 under a deal giving the city a high degree of autonomy and freedoms unavailable in the mainland, where the Tiananmen anniversary remains taboo.

Reporting by Clare Jim; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Tom Hogue

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