Hong Kong Students Stealthily Commemorate Tiananmen

'Goddess of Democracy' statues pop up as police vow to stop annual vigil
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2022 1:36 PM CDT
Hong Kong Students Stealthily Commemorate Tiananmen
University students light candles to form a "Goddess of Democracy," left, after the university's statue, a memorial for those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, was removed from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, on Dec. 24, 2021.   (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

(Newser) – What's being described as a subtle "rebellion" has taken place at the Chinese University of Hong Kong ahead of the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. For decades, Hong Kong had marked the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, pro-democracy protest in Beijing—where soldiers opened fire on hundreds if not thousands of students—with a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. Thousands would gather to hear speakers "demand accountability from the Chinese Communist Party," CNN reports. But Beijing has effectively banned the vigil in recent years, citing COVID-19 restrictions.

More than 3,000 riot police were brought in last year to prevent gatherings. Since then, at least 26 pro-democracy activists have been prosecuted for trying to commemorate June 4, and Hong Kong's only museum dedicated to Tiananmen Square has been closed, per Al Jazeera and the BBC. Though COVID-19 restrictions are now lifting, Hong Kong police have warned about "unauthorized assembly in the area of Victoria Park," in what activists see as part of China's efforts to quell political dissent in Hong Kong since pro-democracy protests in 2020. Senior Superintendent Liauw Ka Kei says police will stop and search anyone who appears to incite others to join unlawful gatherings.

While it's still unclear whether a vigil will take place, students at the Chinese University of Hong Kong have been decorating the campus with miniature replicas of the "Goddess of Democracy" statue that stood at the university for 11 years before it was removed in December, along with other monuments. Modelled on the Statue of Liberty, the democracy symbol was first unveiled at Tiananmen Square in 1989, per the BBC. "This is a kind of a rebellion,” an organizer tells the Hong Kong Free Press. "The university 'stole' the statue from its students so we've decided to … put it back." Though the act of defiance wrapped up after rumored surveillance from school officials, organizers hope witnesses see "there are still people who haven't given up," per the BBC. (Read more Tiananmen Square stories.)

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