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

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For decades, Hong Kong was the only place in China where the victims of the 1989 military crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square could be commemorated by candlelight. This year, Hong Kong deserves attention in every way it tries to forget the 1989 massacre.

In the days leading up to the 4th of June anniversary on Sunday, even small shops displaying goods hinting at the crackdown were closely monitored and police made multiple visits. Over the weekend, thousands of police patrolled the streets of the Causeway Bay area, where wakes are usually held, pitching tents and searching for people suspected of planning a funeral. They arrested four people on suspicion of “”.act with inflammatory intentions‘ and restrained the other four.

The student leader of the Tiananmen Square protests, Zhou Fengshei, said Hong Kong was now under the same “autocratic rule” as the mainland.

“In 1989, we didn’t understand the mission of a democratic China,” said Zhou, now executive director of the New York-based human rights group China Human Rights. “Then, the Hong Kong protests faced the same crackdown, the same slander and the erasure of memory.”

In 1989, China’s pro-democracy movement drew significant support from Hong Kong, then a British colony. Some of Beijing’s student leaders have been smuggled to safety via Hong Kong after Chinese forces took over Tiananmen Square and cleared student demonstrators who killed hundreds, possibly thousands.

For 30 years, every June 4, Hong Kong’s Victoria Park has been a place where Mothers of Tiananmen, an organization representing victims of the genocide, can publicly mourn and express their hopes for a freer China. Despite the fact that over the past decade some of Hong Kong’s younger generation of activists have questioned the relevance of a mainland-focused movement in embracing a distinct Hong Kong identity, the rally has Tens of thousands gathered.

But since China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong in 2020, virtually all forms of dissent have been criminalized in Hong Kong. The pro-democracy and anti-government protests that roiled the city in 2019 have been quelled.

The authorities pay particular attention to the memorial services for the Tiananmen Square massacre. They raided museums dedicated to it, removed books on the repression from libraries, and imprisoned vigil organizers.

Over the past two years, authorities have banned all public memorials to the crackdown, citing pandemic regulations. Those COVID-19 restrictions were lifted this year, but Victoria Park was occupied by the fair instead of the Tiananmen Vigil. The expo was organized by pro-Beijing groups to mark Hong Kong’s return to Chinese rule in 1997, one month before that anniversary.

The imprisonment of the wake organizer has raised questions about whether Hong Kong will allow residents to peacefully mourn the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee declined to give a definite answer, saying only that “everyone should act in accordance with the law and consider their actions so that they are prepared to face the consequences.”

But Saturday’s arrest left little doubt. Among those arrested were Lau Kayi of Tiananmen Mothers and former vigilante volunteer Kwan Chumphon. They had papers saying they were going on hunger strike as private mourners. “Hong Kongers, don’t be afraid!” shouted performance artist Sanmu Chan. Don’t forget June 4th,” the police rushed in and took him away. Police also detained a man and a woman wearing white clothes, a symbol of mourning, holding chrysanthemums.

Several more were taken into police custody on Sunday, including labor activist Chan Po-ying. Mac Intin, former president of the Association of Journalists. And Alexandra Wong, better known as Grandma Wong, has been a familiar figure at many protests, often waving the British flag.

Towards the anniversary, officials were targeting the smallest act of mourning.

Former pro-democracy district worker Debbie Chan posted several photos on social media last Tuesday of electric candles lined up in a grocery store. So, she said, she was visited numerous times by police and representatives from three different government departments. But she didn’t flinch.

“The more they make these moves, the more we aren’t allowed to talk about it, the more I feel it’s the right thing to do,” she said in a phone interview.

For playwright Lit Ming-Wai, Hong Kong has a responsibility to preserve and pass on memories of the repression that have been distorted and erased elsewhere in China.

In 2009, she co-founded the community theater group Stage 64 to make the history of 4th of June more accessible to Hong Kong’s youth. The troupe’s most popular play is 35 May. This is her 4th of June euphemism some people on the mainland use to refer to repression.

“When we talk about June 4th, we are not just thinking about mothers in Tiananmen Square. Ritt, who chaired the day’s vigil, said.

The play can no longer be staged in Hong Kong without risking prosecution. Now based in England, Litt is looking to take the play abroad. The play was originally performed in Cantonese and premiered in Mandarin in Taipei, Taiwan on Friday.

“For us Tiananmen Square survivors, it is very painful to lose Hong Kong, this very important place that has preserved history and truth,” said Zhou, the former leader of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. After Hong Kong’s June 4 museum raid and forced closure in 2021, Zhou donated several Tiananmen relics, including blood-stained banners, tents and mimeographs, to a new permanent exhibition in New York. Some sections were devoted to Hong Kong.

He added that he sympathizes with the wave of dissidents leaving Hong Kong, the pain of exile, and their struggle to keep the movement alive far from home. But their presence abroad helps keep the memory of the repression alive elsewhere, he said.

“Meanwhile, many Hong Kongers are now enthusiastically participating in June 4th activities around the world, with attendance tripling in some locations,” he said. “With the arrival of Hong Kongers, many cities are starting to mark the 4th of June.”

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