Chinese dissidents who took part in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests unveiled a museum in New York on Friday dedicated to remembering the “democratic dreams of the Chinese people,” two days ahead of the 34th anniversary of the uprising’s “brutal suppression.”

Tiananmen museum
Visitors arrive for the opening of a Hong Kong Protest Pavilion and the new June 4th Tiananmen Memorial Museum in New York on June 2, 2023. Photo: Ed Jones/AFP.

“The events of 1989 had an impact on China but also on the entire world,” said Wang Dan, founder of the tiny museum and a former student leader on Tiananmen Square.

“Today, as we begin to wake up to the threat to human civilization posed by the Xi Jinping regime, we should remember back to 1989,” he said, referring to China’s current leader, who cemented his grip on the country late last year by assuming a historic third consecutive term.

In a tiny office space in an unattractive building in midtown Manhattan, Wang had put on a display of photos, videos, press clippings, posters, letters and banners about the democratic uprising that Beijing bloodily crushed, killing at least 1,000 demonstrators.

HRIC Tiananmen Square 1989
Standoff between citizens and troops. Photo: HRIC archive, courtesy of Gail Butler, Libby Schmalz.

“We should commemorate those who sacrificed their lives and remember the democratic dreams of the Chinese people at that time,” said Wang, who served years in prison in China before being exiled in 1998 to the United States, where he later earned a doctorate in history at Harvard.

“Even in the United States, we still can feel the pressure and threats from the Chinese government,” he told AFP.

“The 1989 events connect not only with the past but also with today and the future,” Wang said, demanding that the world should “also remember the true face of the Chinese Communist Party.”

Several leading Chinese critics and American politicians spoke at the inauguration of the museum — the only permanent exhibition in the world on Tiananmen after the closure in 2021 of a museum in Hong Kong.

The artistic flourishing that each year accompanied the Tiananmen commemoration in Hong Kong — which Britain formally ceded in 1997 — has almost disappeared under the yoke of pro-Beijing authorities.

Tiananmen vigil Victoria Park 2020
The annual vigil at Victoria Park on June 4, 2020, to commemorate victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. File Photo: May James/HKFP.

For more than 30 years, tens of thousands of people gathered every June 4 in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park for a candlelight vigil.

But since China imposed a national security law in 2020, local authorities have shut down such gatherings, while criminalizing most public displays of dissent.

In New York, a march was due to take place late Friday from the Tiananmen Museum to the Chinese Consulate General.

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