Hongkongers mourn the dead in Tiananmen Square Massacre despite the police’s ban on vigils for first time in decades

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The June 4th Museum allows people to honour the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre without attending the annual vigil, which was banned for the first time in over 30 years.

Photo: Victoria Park Hong Kong Tiananmen Vigil 2009 courtesy of Kap Leung / CC BY 2.0.

The Hong Kong Police Force’s ban on the annual vigil for the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is the first of its kind in the last 31 years. The police cited public health reasons regarding COVID-19 for the ban, arousing concerns over the fate of the annual memorial assembly especially in the wake of the national security law. Its organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (Hong Kong Alliance), and locals say they will carry on with mourning in alternative ways. 

“They [Hong Kong Police] won’t let us do it in Victoria Park, and thus we launched a ‘blossom everything’ campaign – anyone can join as long as they are full-hearted and think they should persist on expressing resentment towards and condemning the massacre,” said Mak Hoi-wah, chairman of the June 4th Museum of Hong Kong Alliance.

The Alliance calls on individuals to light candles at 8:00PM and join a minute of silence at 8:09PM today. They can share related photos to the activity on social media with the hashtag #6431truth. 

Meanwhile, if under the national security law, some worry that “end one-party dictatorship”, one of the five operational goals of the Alliance and has been chanted for 30 years at vigils, could be illegal. The details of the legislation are not yet clear.

“It’s totally up to what they [Chinese government] say. It is just like they are moving the goalposts so we shouldn’t make up reasons and draw a line at what we can do and we can’t do,” Mak added, “Hongkongers shouldn’t immediately pull back, but [should] keep fighting so that we’ll find our space.”

Tank man, 1989 Tiananmen Square, Beijing. Courtesy of Formosa Wandering on Flickr Creative Commons / CC BY-NC 2.0.

Mak thinks Hong Kong still enjoys the freedom of speech and assembly that distinguishes it from mainland China, but expects more restrictions to come from Beijing. 

“Democracy is not given by authorities but is something that people have to fight for,” he said.  

“4 June vigils remind Hong Kong people across generations of Beijing’s oppression,” said Chan, a local student and museum attendee. She said she did not care about the massacre until she realised the Chinese government’s influence on Hong Kong during anti-extradition protests. 

Another museum visitor named Chow was attending the exhibition for the first time. She believes that the police and Hong Kong government chose to ignore people’s expectations of democracy when they prohibited the vigil. She thinks authorities will not be afraid to use the national security law as “an excuse” to suppress demonstrations, and said she would continue honouring the victims until the Chinese government acknowledges the Tiananmen Square protests. 

Every year Victoria Park is illuminated with candles as crowds commemorate the student-led protests which were crushed by Beijing’s armed military and tanks. The number of deaths and casualties remain undetermined – Yuan Mu, China’s state council spokesperson, reported 300 deaths and 2,000 injuries two days after the crackdown, whereas the United States estimated more than 10,000 deaths and 40,000 injuries.

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