US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday paid tribute to the pro-democracy student protesters crushed by Chinese forces in Tiananmen Square 33 years ago, saying that “these brave individuals will not be forgotten.”

The statement by the top US diplomat came after police in Hong Kong on Friday closed parts of the park where annual candlelit vigils were held to commemorate victims of the 1989 clampdown, when soldiers brutally quashed peaceful demonstrations in Beijing demanding political and economic reform.

People hold candles during a vigil to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre at the Victims of Communism Memorial in Washington, DC, on June 3, 2022. Photo: Nicholas Kamm / AFP.

“Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to echo in Hong Kong, where the annual vigil to commemorate the massacre in Tiananmen Square was banned by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities in an attempt to suppress the memories of that day,” Blinken said in a statement, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken. File photo: USGov.

“We will continue to speak out and promote accountability for PRC atrocities and human rights abuses, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet,” Blinken said.  

“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4.”

Banner in foreground: ‘If the old don’t step down, the young cannot step up; Deng Xiaoping should lead the way.’ Photo: HRIC archive, courtesy of Gail Butler, Libby Schmalz.

Public commemorations of Tiananmen are all but forbidden in mainland China. 

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong had been the one place in the country where large-scale remembrance was still tolerated — until Beijing imposed a wide-reaching national security law two years ago, in reaction to citywide pro-democracy protests. 

The imposition of the security law has swiftly driven Tiananmen commemoration underground.

Police clear Victoria Park on Friday night ahead of the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Photo: HKFP.

Vigils will be held globally Saturday to commemorate the crackdown in which an unknown number of peaceful protesters were killed, with rights group Amnesty International coordinating candlelit ones in 20 cities “to demand justice and show solidarity for Hong Kong”. 

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