Asia

China, Hong Kong scrub Tiananmen memories on anniversary

BEIJING: There was heightened security around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Saturday (Jun 4), the anniversary of the bloody 1989 incident, while police in Hong Kong warned people not to gather as China strives to remove all reminders of the events of Jun 4.

Discussion of the incident is highly sensitive to China’s communist leadership.

It has gone to exhaustive lengths to erase Tiananmen from collective memory, omitting it from history textbooks and censoring online discussion.

On Jun 4, 1989, the government sent troops and tanks to break up peaceful protests, crushing a weeks-long wave of demonstrations calling for political change and curbs on official corruption.

Hundreds, by some estimates more than 1,000, were killed in the incident.

On Saturday, authorities in Beijing had set up facial recognition devices at roads leading to the square and stopped passersby to check their identification, including a large group of cyclists who were made to individually scan their ID cards.

The police presence in the area was noticeably heavier than normal, with two to three times the regular number of officers visible on Saturday morning.

References to Jun 4 were scrubbed from Chinese social media platforms.

On Twitter, which is blocked in China, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it had been 33 years “since the world watched brave demonstrators and bystanders peacefully demand democracy in Tiananmen Square”.

“Despite the removal of memorials and attempts to erase history, we honor their memory by promoting respect for human rights wherever threatened,” he wrote.

HONG KONG COMMEMORATIONS STIFLED

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong had been the one place in China where large-scale remembrance was still tolerated – until two years ago, when Beijing imposed a national security law to snuff out dissent after huge pro-democracy protests in 2019.

The drive to remove all trace of Tiananmen from the city has intensified over the past year in particular.

Authorities warned the public on Friday that “participating in an unauthorised assembly” risked breaking the law and carried a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment.

Large parts of Victoria Park, the site of a once annual candlelit vigil attended by tens of thousands, were closed off on the eve of the anniversary.

In the nearby bustling Causeway Bay shopping district, a performance artist who whittled a potato into the shape of a candle and held a lighter to it was surrounded by more than a dozen officers and taken away in a police van, an AFP reporter saw.

Police later said they had arrested a 31-year-old woman for “disorderly conduct in a public place”.

Source: Channel News Asia

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