Hong Kong Remembered June 4 Tiananmen Massacre, Until It Couldn’t

For many years, Hong Kong was the one place in China the place the victims of the 1989 navy crackdown on pro-democracy activists at Tiananmen Square in Beijing may very well be publicly mourned in a candlelight vigil. This yr, Hong Kong is notable for all of the methods it’s being made to overlook the 1989 bloodbath.

In the times previous the June 4 anniversary on Sunday, even small outlets that displayed gadgets alluding to the crackdown had been intently monitored, receiving a number of visits from the police. Over the weekend, hundreds of officers patrolled the streets within the Causeway Bay district, the place the vigil was usually held. They arrested 4 folks for committing “acts with seditious intention,” and detained 4 others.

Zhou Fengsuo, a pupil chief within the Tiananmen Square protest motion, mentioned that Hong Kong is now below the identical “despotic rule” because the mainland.

“Back in 1989, we did not realize the mission of a democratic China,” mentioned Mr. Zhou, now the manager director of Human Rights in China, a New York advocacy group. “Afterward, Hong Kong protests faced the same suppression, the same vilification and erasure of memories.”

In 1989, the pro-democracy motion in China drew large help from Hong Kong, then a British colony. After the Chinese navy cleared pupil protesters occupying Tiananmen Square, killing a whole bunch and presumably hundreds, some pupil leaders in Beijing had been smuggled to security through Hong Kong.

Every June 4 for 3 many years, Victoria Park in Hong Kong was the place Tiananmen Mothers, a bunch representing victims of the bloodbath, might brazenly grieve and categorical hopes for a freer China. The gatherings drew large crowds of tens of hundreds of individuals, at the same time as prior to now decade among the metropolis’s youthful technology of activists questioned the relevance of the mainland-focused motion as they embraced a definite Hong Kong id.

But since China imposed a nationwide safety legislation on Hong Kong in 2020, just about all types of dissent have been criminalized within the metropolis. Pro-democracy and antigovernment protests like those who roiled the town in 2019 have been snuffed out.

The authorities have paid explicit consideration to commemorations of the Tiananmen bloodbath. They raided a museum devoted to it, eliminated books concerning the crackdown from libraries, and imprisoned organizers of vigils.

In the previous two years, the authorities cited pandemic restrictions to bar all public memorials of the crackdown. Those Covid restrictions had been lifted this yr, however as an alternative of a Tiananmen vigil, Victoria Park was occupied by a commerce honest. The honest was organized by pro-Beijing teams to have a good time the 1997 return of Hong Kong to Chinese rule, one month forward of that anniversary.

The imprisonment of vigil organizers has raised the query of whether or not Hong Kong would ever permit residents to peacefully mourn the victims of the Tiananmen bloodbath.

Hong Kong’s chief government, John Lee, has averted offering a transparent reply, saying solely that “everybody should act in accordance with the law and think of what they do, so as to be ready to face the consequences.”

But the arrests on Saturday left little doubt. Among these arrested had been Lau Ka-yee, of Tiananmen Mothers, and Kwan Chun-pong, a former vigil volunteer; they had been carrying items of paper saying they had been on a starvation strike as particular person mourners. Sanmu Chan, a efficiency artist, yelled “Hong Kongers, don’t be afraid! Don’t forget June 4,” as a crush of officers took him away. The police additionally detained a person and a girl who had carried chrysanthemums and worn white clothes, symbols of mourning.

In the lead-up to the anniversary, the authorities had been focusing on the smallest gestures of remembrance.

Debby Chan, a former pro-democracy district official, had posted a number of pictures on social media of electrical candles she placed on show in her grocery retailer final Tuesday. The police and representatives of three totally different authorities departments visited her a number of occasions due to that, she mentioned. But she was undeterred.

“The more we’re not allowed to talk about it, the more they make these moves, the more I feel it is the right thing to do,” she mentioned in a cellphone interview.

To Lit Ming Wai, a playwright, Hong Kong has a accountability to protect and move down the reminiscence of the crackdown, particularly because it has been distorted after which erased elsewhere in China.

In 2009, she co-founded a neighborhood theater group referred to as Stage 64, which sought to make the historical past of June 4 extra accessible for younger folks in Hong Kong. The troupe’s hottest play is titled “May 35th” — a euphemism for June 4 that some folks on the mainland use to confer with the crackdown.

“When we talk about June 4, we are not just thinking about Tiananmen Mothers. Even more, we are thinking of Hong Kong,” mentioned Ms. Lit, who had been an M.C. at June 4 vigils from 2004 to 2014.

That play can not be carried out in Hong Kong with out risking prosecution. Now based mostly in England, Ms. Lit is looking for to take the play abroad. The play was initially carried out in Cantonese, and had its Mandarin debut in Taipei on Friday.

“For us Tiananmen survivors, losing Hong Kong — this very important place that shielded history and truth — is very painful,” mentioned Mr. Zhou, the previous Tiananmen chief. After the raid and compelled closing of a June 4 museum in Hong Kong in 2021, Mr. Zhou donated a number of Tiananmen artifacts to a newly established everlasting exhibit in New York, together with a bloodstained banner, a tent and a mimeograph. A bit was dedicated to Hong Kong.

He added that he associated to the wave of Hong Kong dissidents who had left the town: the ache of exile and their battle to maintain the motion alive whereas removed from dwelling. But their presence overseas was serving to to maintain the reminiscence of the crackdown alive elsewhere, he mentioned.

“On the other hand, many Hong Kongers are now passionately participating in June 4 activities around the world, increasing attendance threefold in some places,” he mentioned. “There are now many cities that are starting to commemorate June 4 because of the arrival of Hong Kongers.”

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