Hong Kong imposes 2nd year of silence on Tiananmen Square massacre vigil

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Hong Kong imposes 2nd year of silence on Tiananmen Square massacre vigil

The island of Hong Kong observed, for the second year in a row, relative silence during the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, the largest pro-democracy demonstration recorded in China and brutally repressed by the regime. Those who wanted to set the date had to do so with discretion this Saturday (4).

The region’s leader, Carrie Lam, who is soon to leave office, said this week that any events to commemorate the episode would be subject to the national security law, a mechanism imposed two years ago by Beijing to intensify the siege of local opponents.

The 33-year-old massacre took place when the regime sent tanks and troops to repress peaceful protesters who had occupied Tiananmen Square — or Tiananmen Square — for weeks to demand political change. The repression caused an uncertain number of deaths, but estimates suggest that the figure could exceed 1,000.

Traditional surveillance sites in Hong Kong, such as Victoria Park, as well as soccer fields and basketball courts, emerged empty, a scene quite different from that seen before 2020. Hundreds of police officers, some with sniffer dogs, patrolled the area.

“Remembering is resisting,” Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao, who is in the United States, told Reuters. “If no one remembers, people’s suffering will never stop, and the perpetrators will continue their crimes with impunity,” he continued.

Among the residents, however, there was fear. Victor, 57, from Hong Kong, who asked to be identified only by his first name, told Reuters that everyone was silent because they were afraid of being arrested. Some, in fact, were detained after trying to stage small protests on Friday night (3) local time.

Three street performers staged small performances with subtle references to Tiananmen, according to AFP. A woman was taken away by police after trying to carve a potato into a candle and pretending she was going to light it, and a man in a black T-shirt was also taken away by security officers.

A former leader of the Hong Kong Alliance, which previously organized the vigils, was surrounded and searched by police as he walked through the neighborhood around Victoria Park with a bouquet of red and white roses in his hands. Another leader, Lee Cheuk-yan, announced that he would fast this Saturday in honor of those killed in the massacre.

The persistence of repression has also reverberated in Taiwan, an autonomous territory that Beijing describes as a rebellious province. Public acts in reference to the episode are expected to take place in the capital Taipei, and President Tsai Ing-wen criticized that the collective memory of June 4 is being denied in Hong Kong.

“We believe that this brutal force cannot erase people’s memories,” the leader wrote on her social media. “When democracy is threatened and authoritarianism in the world is expanding, we need even more to defend democratic values.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also commented on the fact. In a statement, he called the crackdown a brutal attack, and continued: “The efforts of these courageous individuals will not be forgotten; every year, we will honor and remember those who stood up for human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Beijing once again reinforced its line of interpretation on the episode in Tiananmen Square. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a news conference on Thursday that “the government has long reached a clear conclusion about the political incident that took place in the late 1980s.”

Since Chinese repression advanced in Hong Kong, notably after the pro-democracy demonstrations on the island throughout 2019, there have been numerous measures to suppress the legacy of the mobilizations.

Last December, for example, an eight-meter-tall sculpture in memory of the victims of the massacre was removed by security from the University of Hong Kong campus.

Dubbed the “Pilar of Shame”, the monument depicted 50 anguished faces and torn bodies piled on top of each other. The statue has been on the island’s oldest university campus since 1997, when the former British colony was returned to Beijing.

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