Hong Kong boosted security around a park on Sunday, where tens of thousands of people used to gather for an annual memorial of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, ensuring no protests on the tragedy’s 34th anniversary.
On the eve of the anniversary, local police detained eight people, including activists and artists. The move signals the city’s shrinking freedom of expression.
For decades, Hong Kongers would converge on Victoria Park and its surrounding Causeway Bay, to commemorate the events of the fourth of June 1989, often taking part in candlelight vigils.
However, since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law following massive protests in 2019, many activists there have been silenced or jailed.
This weekend, the park hosted a “hometown carnival fair” organised by pro-Beijing groups, while scores of police deployed in the adjacent Causeway Bay shopping district searched shoppers and quickly removed performance artists and activists.
This year’s Tiananmen commemoration is expected to be muted. Many Hong Kongers are trying to mark the event privately because it is unclear what authorities might consider subversive.
In the run-up to this year’s anniversary, the city’s leader John Lee was asked whether it was legal to mourn the crackdown in public as an individual. He replied that if anyone breaks the law, “the police will have to take action.”
In self-ruled Taiwan, which China claims as its territory, workers set up a small replica of the “Pillar of Shame” on Sunday in preparation for a candlelight vigil.
“The history and the memory will not be wiped out easily,” said Hong Konger Sky Fung, secretary-general of Taiwan-based NGO Hong Kong Outlanders.
Meanwhile, around 100 people attended a rally in Sydney to pay tribute to the 1989 victims.
Participants included Falun Gong members, activists in exile, and members of the Taiwanese, Tibetan and Uyghurs communities.
Former Chinese diplomat Chen Yonglin who defected to Australia in 2005 was amongst the speakers.
Law academic and rally speaker Sophie York said that she was there because she thought “that if we don’t speak up for human rights, eventually our loss of freedom will spread across the whole world. We think that it’s just a different country, it’s confined to that, but it’s not.”
Beijing tries to erase the memory of the Tiananmen Square Massacre
The Tiananmen crackdown is a highly sensitive topic for China’s communist leadership. Commemorations and tributes are forbidden across the country.
In 19889, the government sent troops and tanks to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to break up peaceful protests, brutally crushing a weeks-long wave of demonstrations calling for political change.
The Chinese government has gone to exhaustive lengths to erase the event from public memory in the mainland.
All mention of the crackdown is scrubbed from China’s internet.
In Beijing, additional security was seen around Tiananmen Square, which has long been ringed with security checks requiring those entering to show identification.
People passing on foot or on bicycles on Changan Avenue running north of the square were also stopped and forced to show identification.
Those with journalist visas in their passports were told they needed special permission to even approach the area.