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4 June

Police patrol Hong Kong park during crackdown of Tiananmen Square commemorations

Chinese troops opened fire on protesters demanding greater democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

DOZENS OF POLICE officers patrolled Hong Kong’s Victoria Park after authorities for a third consecutive year banned public commemoration of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

For decades, an annual candlelight vigil was held in the park to remember China’s deadly resistance against protesters demanding greater democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

Critics say the ban is part of a move to suppress political dissent and a sign that Hong Kong is losing its freedoms as Beijing tightens its grip over the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

Soldiers were ordered to open fire on a crowd of student-led protesters at the square in the heart of Beijing.

The official death toll from the Chinese government shortly after the incident was recorded as 300 deaths, however western diplomats in the city and human rights groups claim that between 400 and 800 civilians were killed.

Vigil organisers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, disbanded last year after many of its leaders were arrested on suspicion of violating the national security law.

Authorities have cited Covid-19 risks for banning the public commemoration over the past three years.

Critics say the pandemic is used as an excuse to infringe on the right to assemble.

A government statement said that parts of Victoria Park, which traditionally served as the venue for the candlelight vigil, would be closed as it may be used for “illegal activities”.

The move was to “prevent any unauthorized assemblies” in the park and to reduce the possibility of Covid-19 spread.

ts The defining symbol of the massacre, a man with shopping bags blocking tanks on 5 June. Jeff Widener of the Associated Press. Jeff Widener of the Associated Press.

Earlier in the week, a police superintendent warned that anyone who gathered in a group “at the same place, with the same time and with a common purpose to express certain views” could be considered part of an unauthorized assembly.

Since the UK handed over Hong Kong to China in 1997, the city has been governed under a “one country, two systems” framework that gives it freedoms not found on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.

For years, Hong Kong and Macao were the only places on Chinese soil allowed to commemorate the Tiananmen incident.

In China, keywords such as “Tiananmen massacre” and “June 4” are strictly censored online, and people are not allowed to publicly mark the events.

Hong Kong’s crackdown on commemorations of Tiananmen has drawn criticism internationally.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken said in a statement: “Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to echo in Hong Kong, where the annual vigil to commemorate the massacre in Tiananmen Square was banned by the PRC (People’s Republic of China) and Hong Kong authorities in an attempt to suppress the memories of that day”.

Blinken said the US would continue to speak out and promote accountability on human rights abuses by China, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.

“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4,” he said.

Taiwan’s foreign ministry wrote on its Facebook page 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 Tiananmen Square massacre “to see what their country is hiding from them”.

“We hope that no more will the individual be sacrificed for the party, and that freedom, democracy and human rights can become our common language with them,” the ministry’s post said.

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