Vigils to remember those who died during the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown have been held in cities across the world, as the Hong Kong and mainland Chinese diaspora marked the 34th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.
In Hong Kong, where civil society groups have disappeared and pro-democracy figures have been detained in the wake of the 2020 national security law, individuals carrying flowers, candles or wearing black at Victoria Park, where memorial activities took place for 30 years, were among those taken away by police on Sunday.
While historically, many overseas memorials were hosted by exiled Tiananmen activists, this year they were joined by young emigrants from Hong Kong and young Chinese who joined the “blank placard“ protests in the mainland last November.
The Tiananmen crackdown occurred on June 4, 1989 ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died when the People’s Liberation Army cracked down on protesters in Beijing.
An assembly to commemorate the 34th anniversary of Tiananmen Crackdown took place in Shinjuku, the major commercial district of Tokyo, Japan, with Uyghurs, Hongkongers and mainland Chinese in attendance.
The predominantly Muslim Uyghur ethnic group are among the minorities targeted in what Beijing claims is a campaign to tackle unrest and separatism. The UN says a million Uyghurs were arbitrarily detained in “political re-education camps,” whilst Human Rights Watch reports that surveillance and repression in Xinjiang has increased dramatically since 2016. Several western countries have imposed sanctions over Beijing’s actions.
This year’s assembly was co-organised by a group of young Chinese dissidents and Hongkonger William Lee, all living in Tokyo, according to The Initium. It was marked by a candlelight vigil.
“If we think commemoration of the crackdown lacks perspectives from China, it is better to host one ourselves,” an organiser from mainland China told The Initium, adding that they had become “awakened” after last year’s blank placard protests.
In Canada, there were memorial assemblies and vigils held in Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Montreal.
Assembly of Citizens Official, a mainland Chinese student organisation set up in 2022, co-hosted a Tiananmen memorial event for the first time on Saturday in Toronto, according to its official twitter account.
An assembly in Edmonton was hosted by an overseas group of Hongkongers, Edmonton Hong Kong Civil Rights United, on Sunday evening.
“As diasporic Hongkongers and those who support democracy and liberty, it seems that we have responsibilities to continue to lit the memorial candles,” the organiser said during a speech at the event in Edmonton, followed by a silent tribute and singing Democracy Will Triumph and Flowers of Liberty, songs that used to be sung during the candlelit vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.
A candlelit vigil was also held in Vancouver. The organiser Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement, a group founded in 1989 by Vancouver Hongkongers to support the Chinese movement, hosted the vigil.
Hundreds of Hongkongers and mainland Chinese living in the UK gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday and marched towards the Embassy of People’s Republic of China to mourn victims of Tiananmen crackdown and protest, shouting, “We demand freedom of speech”, and “It’s my duty”.
The latter was a slogan chanted during the 1989 student-led movement in mainland China and reactivated during the blank placard protests.
Unlike previous years, the assembly and march were organised by young mainland Chinese inspired by the blank placard protests, and it was attended by people from Hong Kong, mainland China and Xinjiang, British broadcaster the BBC reported.
Memorial events were also held elsewhere around the UK, including Birmingham, Leeds, and Kingston. Some 144,500 people have left Hong Kong and moved to the UK in the two years since London launched an emigration scheme for holders of British National (Overseas) passports after Beijing enacted the national security law in the city.
The memorial assembly of Kingston saw attendance of numerous figures who were once active players in Hong Kong’s civil society and democratic movement, including Chung Kim-wah, a social science professor and former deputy chief executive officer of the Hong Kong Public Opinion Research Institute, and Lee Wing-tat, a former legislative councillor and former chairman and deputy charman of the Democratic Party.
The event was organised by Hongkongers living in the UK.
Around the world
Activities to mourn the historical incident also took place in cities including Berlin, in Germany, and Melbourne and Sydney, in Australia, and in New York, in the US, where a new museum preserving photos and evidence from the Tiananmen crackdown opened last Friday, Ming Pao reported.
In Taiwan, hundreds gathered in Taiwan’s capital on Sunday to mark the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown as the annual vigil took place outside Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
According to Hong Kong Democracy Council, there were at least 37 memorial events all over the world to mourn the crackdown.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China used to run such a museum in Hong Kong, but it closed in September 2021 when the group disbanded after several of its members were arrested under the national security law.
In June 2020, Beijing inserted national security legislation directly into Hong Kong’s mini-constitution – bypassing the local legislature – following a year of pro-democracy protests and unrest. It criminalised subversion, secession, collusion with foreign forces and terrorist acts, which were broadly defined to include disruption to transport and other infrastructure. The move gave police sweeping new powers, alarming democrats, civil society groups and trade partners, as such laws have been used broadly to silence and punish dissidents in China. However, the authorities say it has restored stability and peace to the city.
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