The US consulate and the office of the EU in Hong Kong have displayed commemorative candles in their windows on the anniversary of the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown.

The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.
The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

The move is often blasted by Beijing and has been cited by China as “evidence” of foreign interference in a 6,300-word “factsheet.”

The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.
The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters around Tiananmen Square in Beijing 34 years ago.

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The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.
The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

In 2021, Beijing slammed the display of candles at the EU Office and US consulate as a “clumsy political show” to destabilise the city.

The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.
The US Consulate in Hong Kong displays candles in the windows of its building on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, on June 4, 2023. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

“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.

The EU and US ignored warnings last year to avoid a repeat.

British embassy

The British embassy in Beijing posted Chinese newspaper coverage from 1989 across its social media platforms, and tweeted: “Today we remember those who were lost during China’s government crackdowns on 4 June 1989. Despite China’s ban on public discussion of the horror of that day, we posted the below image on Chinese social media today, showing how Party media had once reported on the events.”

It later added: “Within 20 minutes, censors have removed our post on Weibo, censoring the news as reported by the Party’s most authoritative news outlet on the day of the massacre.”

Commemorations muted amid arrests

On Saturday, police arrested four people and held another four for questioning, after activists and artists seeking to mark the anniversary were apprehended by officers in Causeway Bay.

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It is the fourth year where no official commemorations have been scheduled. The police rejected applications to hold the annual, mass candlelight vigils in Victoria Park in 2020 and 2021 citing Covid-19 health concerns.

police detain Tiananmen activists 2023
Tiananmen crackdown activists are taken away by police on June 3, 2023. Photo: Courtesy of The Collective Hong Kong.

See also: Is it legal for people to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown?

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Before the pandemic and the implementation of the 2020 security law, Hong Kong was one of the only places in Chinese soil where public mourning of the crackdown was permitted. In June 2019, then-leader Carrie Lam said the vigils were “proof that Hong Kong is a free place. But, last month, top officials would not clearly state whether commemorations are still legal.

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Tom is the editor-in-chief and founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications and New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Al-Jazeera and others.