Thursday marks the 31st anniversary of Tiananmen Massacre where hundreds, perhaps thousands died from the People’s Liberation Army crackdown on a student-led movement in Beijing on June 4, 1989. HKFP rounds up reactions from political leaders and activists as the Hong Kong authorities ban the annual vigil for the first time, citing Covid-19 regulations.

Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Square Massacre vigil, 2019. Photo: Todd R. Darling/HKFP.

Tiananmen Mothers, co-signed by 124 family members of Tiananmen Massacre victims

Over the past 31 years, we have repeatedly called for a legal resolution to a political problem, through fair and equitable dialogues with the government in accordance with the law. The government has remained silent on the June Fourth massacre, without demonstrating the slightest trace of remorse. With the passage of time, 60 people among our group of victims’ families have passed away. Time can erase our lives, but our group ’s resolve in the pursuit of fairness and justice will not alter. We continue to adhere to our three demands: truth, compensation, and accountability—in order to obtain justice from the government for all the victims of the June Fourth tragedy. The dignity of every single life may not be stripped away and trampled on arbitrarily by power. They are our loved ones and your compatriots.

On Thursday, a number of Tiananmen Mothers paid tribute to the victims at Wan’an Cemetery in Beijing.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen

In China, there are only 364 days every year with one forgotten day. In Taiwan, there had been a period in when many dates were disappeared from our calendar. Yet we have retrieved them one by one. As the history is no longer obscured, we can contemplate about the future together. I wish that there will not be any disappeared dates in any corner of the world. Blessing to Hong Kong. Free Taiwan supports Hong Kong’s freedom.

EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Virginie Battu-Henriksson

The violent suppression of the peaceful Tiananmen Square democracy protests of 1989 shocked the world. At that time, the European Council, meeting in Madrid on 26-27 June 1989, strongly condemned the brutal repression that ensued. Over thirty years later, the European Union continues to mourn the victims and offers its condolences to their families. The exact numbers of those who died, were detained or disappeared on 4 June and in the subsequent crackdown have never been confirmed, and may never be known. However, we must continue to honour their memory. We can only do justice to history if we learn from it. Those detained in connection with the 1989 events, or with current activities to commemorate it, must be guaranteed their legal safeguards and due process. We also expect the immediate release of the human rights defenders and lawyers detained and convicted in connection with these events or with their activities protecting the rule of law and democracy.

More specifically on the commemoration, Hong Kong and Macao have a long tradition of commemorating the Tiananmen Square democracy protests of 1989 and their violent suppression. These commemorations are a strong signal that key freedoms continue to be protected. We note the restrictions that have been put in place this year in both territories on health grounds. We trust that the people of Hong Kong and Macao will nevertheless be free to mark the anniversary appropriately. A clear commitment to fully respecting guaranteed rights and freedoms is now more important than ever in light of recent developments.

Sharon Hom, Human Rights in China

As the only place in China where demands for accountability and public commemorations for the deaths of unarmed civilians could be expressed, Hong Kong has been a beacon of hope and resistance to the enforced amnesia and censorship of the authoritarian Party-state. The ban comes amid an alarming acceleration of attacks on the autonomy of Hong Kong and the undermining of the rights and freedoms of the Hong Kong people guaranteed under Hong Kong and international law.

Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Borders

Thirty-one years ago, thousands of peaceful protestors were slaughtered for demanding the enforcement of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of the press. If the Chinese authoritarian model is not opposed with more strength, not only will the Tiananmen protesters have died in vain, but independent journalism will gradually give way to Chinese-style propaganda and democracy will falter…

In the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, Beijing’s clutch on media and police violence against journalists has led to an unprecedented deterioration of press freedom, which has resulted in a decline from the 18th rank in 2002 to the 80th rank this year in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. In Hong Kong and also Macau, another supposedly autonomous region, the authorities have canceled events commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre citing the need to enforce social distancing measures as an excuse.

Alvin Yeung, pro-democracy lawmaker of the Civic Party

Hong Kong Democracy Council

Benedict Rogers, Hong Kong Watch

Ma Jian, Chinese dissident writer

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Rachel Wong

Rachel Wong previously worked as a documentary producer and academic researcher. She has a BA in Comparative Literature and European Studies from the University of Hong Kong. She has contributed to A City Made by People and The Funambulist, and has an interest in cultural journalism and gender issues.