Commemorative vigils, gatherings and protests were held in cities around the world on Saturday, the 33rd anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
In Hong Kong, police largely thwarted attempts to mark the incident, making six arrests, shutting down the traditional commemorative vigil venue, and warning that those illegally gathering risk up to five years in prison.
In Australia, there were gatherings in Melbourne and Sydney. Vigil attendees marched to the Chinese consulate in the capital, holding placards that said “never forget June 4,” “release Hong Kong dissidents from prison,” and “liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our times.” The latter slogan has been deemed illegal in Hong Kong under the Beijing-enacted security law.
Outside of the consulate, demonstrators arranged tealights in the shape of “6489,” referencing the date of the crackdown on protesters which saw hundreds, perhaps thousands, killed by the People’s Liberation Army.
In Melbourne, activists also gathered to commemorate the dead. Outside of the State Library of Victoria, mourners laid down a blue banner that said “commemorate the souls of June Fourth martyrs, long live the  spirit,” along with old photos of the crackdown, such as the famous “tank man” picture.
One woman held a placard that said: “Hongkongers cannot mourn June 4 in Hong Kong.”
Victoria Park – the usual venue of Hong Kong’s vigils – was closed by police whilst Beijing slammed foreign consulates for sharing tributes.
Only vigil in Chinese-speaking world
In Taiwan, hundreds attended a large-scale commemoration outside Taipei’s National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Taiwan is now the only place in the Chinese-speaking world where public vigils are held to mark the Tiananmen crackdown.
One of the highlights of the memorial was when a replica of the Pillar of Shame was erected in the public square. The original statue was created by Danish artist Jens Galschiot to pay tribute to those who died in the crackdown. One of Galschiot’s originals was placed at the University of Hong Kong, but was removed by the school in December last year citing legal risks.
The three-metre statue in Taiwan was recreated with 3D printing technology, according to the vigil’s main organiser, the New School for Democracy. Vigil-goers were also invited to observe a moment of silence for 64 seconds.
The event featured speakers from all over the world, including Zhang Xianling of the Tiananmen Mothers group and former Tuen Mun district councillor Michael Mo, who have left Hong Kong for the UK. They both spoke via video link.
There were also exhibitions in the public square with one booth showcasing old images of the military crackdown.
Some people offered white funeral flowers. Others left memos on a “Lennon Wall’ for Hongkongers – including “Free Hong Kong” and “Hong Kong Cheer Up.”
Protesters in London, England, meanwhile brought a large, cardboard military tank to the Chinese Embassy. The paper replica had the words “never forget June 4” and red paint to symbolise blood.
Military tanks have become an symbol of the crackdown after a lone man was seen standing in front of a line of tank near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square 33 years ago.
Some held signs that said “it’s my duty” to remember the Tiananmen crackdown.
Rally-goers also held banners that called for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong, as well as support for ethnic Uyghurs detained in mainland China.
It is estimated that up to one million Uyghur Muslims were sent to detention camps in China, though Beijing has claimed they are “education” centres.
On the eve of the anniversary, a pro-democracy group in the UK projected a Tiananmen-related video onto Tower Bridge in London.
The video also sought to raise awareness of detained dissidents such as media tycoon Jimmy Lai, as well as showing slogans such as “Free Hong Kong,” “Free Tibet,” and “Free Uyghurs.”
US & Canada
Commemorative activities were also held in North America. In Washington D.C., people gathered with candles at the Victims of Communism Memorial. Wu’er Kaixi, a former student leader who was in Beijing during the crackdown also attended.
Hong Kong Democracy Council, a Washington-based non-profit founded by Hongkongers in 2019, meanwhile organised an online forum on June 4, discussing the shrinking space in Hong Kong to hold such vigils.
In Vancouver, Canada, community groups held a candlelight vigil outside the Chinese consulate. People laid down candles in front of a big banner that said: “Redress June 4th!” One person was seen holding up a small “liberate Hong Kong” flag. There were also paper-cuttings which said “end CCP,” referring to the Chinese Communist Party.
“End one-party dictatorship” was one of the popular slogans by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organised the annual vigil in Hong Kong before it disbanded in September last year. The slogan was later deemed inappropriate after the Beijing-drafted national security law was enacted in Hong Kong.
Aside from physical vigils around the world, some artists also took to the internet to pay their respects. One of them Badiucao, who is known for being critical of the Chinese government.
Commemoration activities have been silenced for the third year in Hong Kong, but the tradition was continued overseas, often by Hongkongers who have left to seek refuge elsewhere.
Political cartoonist and former teacher “vawongsir,” who recently left Hong Kong, shared an illustration with one dot representing a candle in Hong Kong in 2021 and the dots spreading to all across the globe in 2022.
Wong said “the whole world will remember this day.”
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