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.

US Consulate Hong Kong Tiananmen crackdown candle anniversary
The US consulate places candles in its windows to mark the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary. The move comes despite Beijing reportedly warnings missions not to share tributes on Saturday. Photo: HKFP

The move was blasted by Beijing last year and cited as “evidence” of foreign interference in a 6,300-word “factsheet.”

us consulate hong kong tiananmen crackdown anniversary 2022 candles
Candles in the windows of the US consulate in Hong Kong, on June 4, 2022. Photo: HKFP

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters around Tiananmen Square in Beijing 33 years ago.

EU hong kong candles tiananmen crackdown anniversary 2022
The Office of the EU in Hong Kong and Macau posted an image showing candles in their window for the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2022.

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.

See also: Explainer: How Hong Kong sought to erase the memory of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre

Tin Hau MTR police Victoria Park Causeway Bay patrol Tiananmen crackdown vigil banned 2022
Police patrol outside Tin Hau MTR station near Victoria Park on June 4, 2022, the site where Hongkongers previously attended a candlelight vigil to mourn the dead in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: HKFP

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.

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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.

Foreign consulates
Foreign consulates post tributes to the the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: Facebook.

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.

‘No justice’

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.

On Tuesday, Chief Executive Carrie Lam invoked the national security law and Covid-19 restrictions when asked about the legality of Hongkongers commemorating the crackdown.

Commemorations muted

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.

Victoria Park football pitch maintenance
A notice in Victoria Park saying that pitch number three and six would be temporarily closed for maintenance work from mid-May until June 16, 2022. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

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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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.