Small Gestures Honor Tiananmen Victims

Police block displays in Hong Kong, but vigils take place elsewhere in the world
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 4, 2022 1:00 PM CDT
Small Gestures Honor Tiananmen Victims
Police officers stop people entering the Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Saturday, the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square violence in 1989.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

Heavy police force patrolled Hong Kong's Victoria Park on Saturday after authorities for a third consecutive year banned public commemoration of the anniversary of the deadly Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989, with vigils overseas the only place marking the event. For decades, the AP reports, Hong Kong and nearby Macao were the only places in China allowed to commemorate the violent suppression by army troops of student pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Hundreds, if not thousands, were killed. The ban is seen as part of a move to snuff out political dissent and a sign that Hong Kong is losing its freedoms as Beijing tightens its grip over the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Authorities have cited risks from the coronavirus in banning the public commemoration over the past three years. Despite the ban, some residents wore black in a show of support, and some even carried bouquets of flowers, held candles, or turned on the flashlight on their cellphones. "Today, this is to commemorate June 4. Every year I have to do it," said Man Yuen, who appeared in a black T-shirt with the words "the people will not forget" while walking down the streets carrying an unlit candle. Police stopped and searched several people, some of whom were dressed in black. It is unclear if any arrests were made.

Other remembrances included:

  • A US promise: The US Consulate in Hong Kong lit candles in the windows. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US will continue to speak out and promote accountability on human rights abuses by China, including those in Hong Kong and against Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang region. "To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4," Blinken said.
  • Taiwan solidarity: Hundreds took part in a vigil on the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory. The Foreign Ministry wrote on Facebook that "when this time of year comes around, there is a lot one can't say, a lot one can’t write, and a lot one can’t even look up on the internet." The post encouraged Chinese citizens who use a VPN to access Facebook, which is blocked in China, and search for information on the massacre "to see what their country is hiding from them." Taiwan democracy activist Lee Ming-che said, "We must be aware of China's threats and protect Taiwan’s values of democracy, human rights, and freedom."
  • Australian support: In Sydney, about 50 pro-democracy supporters lit candles outside the Chinese Consulate as several police officers kept watch.
  • "Tank Man": In the Indian city of Dharmsala, home to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, activists organized street theater to mark the Tiananmen anniversary. They used a cutout of a Chinese tank to re-create the "tank man," the iconic image of a student standing in front of a tank, which came to symbolize courage in the face of the government's crackdown.
(Students in Hong Kong began setting out reminders early.)

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