By Elaine Dunn | June 2023
June 4, 2023, the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, will not be observed, en masse, in Hong Kong, at least not legally. However, Taiwan stepped up. Its New School for Democracy chairman Tseng Chien-yuan said remembering the victims of the June 4 incident is “a responsibility of Taiwanese society as a democracy.”
Taiwan’s commemoration is meant to “demonstrate the ‘resolve’ of Taiwanese to safeguard democracy and freedom. There also is an exhibit, “Bravery, Defend Democracy!” on display until June 13.
Hong Kong used to hold the world’s largest annual candle-light vigil for the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The event was organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (which disbanded in 2021) regularly attracted tens of thousands of residents in attendance.
All that changed with the introduction of the National Security Law. This past March, three of the alliance’s core leaders were found guilty of failing to assist police investigation into the group’s suspected violation of the national security law, and received four and a half months prison sentences.
In addition, pro-Beijing groups will jointly host a carnival at Victoria Park from Saturday to Monday. Admission is HK$5 and residents must pay using their stored-value Octopus card. The pro-Beijing groups denied the carnival was an attempt to block pro-democracy individuals to gather at Victoria Park to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary.
Secretary for Security Chris Tang Ping-keung issued a warning on May 29 saying, “authorities will take “resolute action” against anyone taking advantage of ‘a special occasion’ to threaten national security as the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown approaches on Sunday.”
Hong Kong Chief Executive John Lee was unable to provide a “yes-or-no” answer over the legality of mourning the Tiananmen victims.” Instead, his neither-here-nor-there response was: “Any activity that contradicts the law, of course the police will have to take action. Police will take action resolutely, particularly in regards to public order activities.”
Media had also reported that books about Tiananmen Square Massacre, Hong Kong protest movements and “other subjects deemed politically sensitive by Beijing” had been removed from public libraries.”
A late-April government audit commission report said the leisure and cultural services department, which operates Hong Kong’s public libraries, needed to “step up efforts in examining library materials for safeguarding national security and taking follow-up actions.” Hong Kong’s libraries needed to “step up efforts in examining library materials for safeguarding national security and taking follow-up actions.”
Beijing’s crackdown on pro-democracy students at Tiananmen Square in 1989 is considered one of “the darkest days” in modern Chinese history. Elderly relatives of its victims continue to seek redress from the Chinese government. The Tiananmen Mothers accused the government of evading responsibility for the tragedy then and urged “The government of today should take full responsibility and tell the public about everything that took place then.”
But there has been no public commemoration or mention of the Tiananmen Square incident in China. In fact, it’s common practice for the authorities to place dozens of pro-democracy activists under house arrest leading up to June 4. A member of the Tiananmen Mothers who lost her husband that night in 1989 said, “In the long year that have elapsed, I have been able to bear life’s difficulties, but I have nowhere to talk about my pain — that psychological pain has always been with me. How could fully armed soldiers and tanks with live ammunition shoot at unarmed students and citizens on the streets of Beijing and in Tiananmen Square?” she said.