A bullet lodged in a model bone. A Lego replica of the iconic tank man. An archive of People’s Daily newspaper clippings. These are some of the items on display at a museum to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, which opened on Thursday.

The museum – which has struggled to find a permanent home – was set up by the non-profit Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China to remember victims of the massacre on June 4, 1989. The bloody crackdown ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, even thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to suppress protesters in Beijing.

tiananmen museum 6/4
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

The site inside the commercial building on Mong Kok road houses a collection of historic artefacts, including a banner reading “The people support you” – a reference to the student protesters who occupied the square. It is flanked by panels describing the events of the massacre, alongside two digital wall clocks displaying the current time and time elapsed since the crackdown almost 30 years ago. The Alliance opened its museum doors to the public at 12pm.

Albert Ho, chairman of the Alliance, confirmed to HKFP that the Mong Kok site was bought last December for HK$8 million – including around HK$500,000 for stamp duty and HK$1 million for renovation – using public donations. The museum’s original location in Tsim Sha Tsui closed in 2014 after a protracted legal battle with the building’s owners’ corporation, who said the Alliance breached office-only regulations.

Albert Ho
Albert Ho. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Earlier this month staff members said the museum had been vandalised, with salt water doused on electrical sockets and fuse box switches and a hole punctured through a chair. Police are still investigating the suspected criminal damage.

Ho said that the museum has been equipped with a metal gate, CCTV and 24-hour security to ensure a similar incident would not occur again. “We have done all the preparation we can to face harassment and challenges. We are confident we can maintain this museum, so there is no need to worry,” he told reporters.

‘Politically motivated’

The museum has faced at least two protests held this month over its purported threat to building safety, RTHK reported.

tiananmen museum 6/4
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Around 20 protesters lined the street outside the building during its opening. A participant who gave his surname as Ho told HKFP that the group were local residents concerned about the museum disrupting the community.

“This building will make our lives very uncomfortable,” he said. “We are just normal people who want to live a peaceful life.”

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The 6/4 Museum. Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

But Richard Tsoi, vice-chairman of the Alliance, questioned whether the protesters were Mong Kok residents. “I am also curious whether they are residents here or nearby, or just being politically motivated to oppose the opening of the June 4 museum,” he told HKFP. “On the whole, the Hong Kong Alliance understands there will be ongoing suppression to intervene our activities, but we will certainly continue to uphold our work.”

tiananmen museum 6/4
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

The vice-chair also said that in the event of another museum closure the Alliance would find another location to host the exhibition.

tiananmen museum 6/4
Photo: Jennifer Creery/HKFP.

Lee Cheuk-yan, secretary of the Alliance, echoed Tsoi, adding that the museum serves a public interest. “The struggle of June 4 is remembrance against forgetting,” he told HKFP. “We believe the more people try to suppress the museum, the more it shows how important it is to Hong Kong and the world.”

The Fire Department arrived at the building shortly after the museum opened. According to police, someone had called claiming they smelt gas on the ninth or 10th floor. The case has since been classified as a hoax report.

An annual vigil, organised by the Alliance and attended by thousands, is held at Victoria Park to commemorate victims of the crackdown. The upcoming June 4 will mark its 30 years anniversary.

Additional reporting: Holmes Chan.

Update 16:00: Information from the police added.

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Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.