The US consulate and the office of the EU in Hong Kong have displayed commemorative candles in their windows on the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters around Tiananmen Square in Beijing 33 years ago.
Last June, Beijing slammed the display of candles at the EU Office and US consulate as a “clumsy political show” to destabilise the city. “Any attempt to exploit Hong Kong to carry out infiltration or sabotage activities against the mainland crosses the red line… is absolutely intolerable,” a spokesperson for the Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry said, without mentioning the crackdown.
Earlier on Saturday, foreign consulates ignored warnings from Beijing’s foreign office and shared tributes to the Tiananmen dead.
The US, Canada and Australia were among those sharing Facebook messages.
According to local media, the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China in Hong Kong had reminded the missions of Western countries not to express their views on the 1989 crackdown.
Sources told Ming Pao that the Office told them that past memorial activities in Hong Kong were illegal acts that were “hosted by a very small number of people who were anti-China and hostile towards the Chinese government.” It added that the crackdown was already history with no merit to be remembered.
The co-chairs of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a statement on Friday that there was still no justice for those who lost their lives.
“We call on the Chinese government to allow free and open discussion surrounding the events of 1989 and to reckon publicly with the horrific violence the Chinese Communist Party and military unleashed on the Chinese people. We call on the Hong Kong government to drop charges and release all those detained for gathering to remember the Tiananmen tragedy and to allow the resumption of the annual vigil in Victoria Park,” Senator Jeff Merkley and Representative James P. McGovern said.
Commemorating June 4 is often seen as a barometer of free speech in Hong Kong, with crowds often numbering over 100,000 gathering in past years in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park for a candlelit vigil. But since last year, exhibits at a June 4 museum have been confiscated, activists arrested, most remembrance masses cancelled and campus monuments torn down.
Last week, it emerged that Victoria Park’s football pitches had been closed “for maintenance” or fully booked by residents, as police shut down the park on Friday and warned Hongkongers not to gather.
In 2020, many Hongkongers defied the ban imposed on Covid grounds and went ahead with the commemoration. A number of prominent veteran activists, such as Lee Cheuk-yan, Albert Ho and Chow Hang-tung, have been jailed for organising or taking part in an unauthorised assembly.
Amnesty International and other rights groups have planned events and memorials overseas this weekend.
There are fears that the vigil could formally be made illegal under Article 23 – local national security legislation which the city’s next leader, John Lee, has vowed to enact.
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