Hong Kong plans to commemorate fraught Tiananmen crackdown by China on Thursday

WION Web Team Beijing, China Jun 04, 2020, 08.13 AM(IST)

Candles to light up Hong Kong on fraught Tiananmen anniversary Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

Many people in Hong Kong plan to commemorate this bloody 1989 crackdown by lighting candles across the city on Thursday, circumventing a ban on the usual public gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Thursday marks the anniversary of when China suppressed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around central Beijing's Tiananmen Square, when Chinese troops opened fire on their own people.

Many people in Hong Kong plan to commemorate this bloody 1989 crackdown by lighting candles across the city on Thursday, circumventing a ban on the usual public gathering amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The anniversary strikes an especially sensitive nerve in the semi-autonomous city this year after Beijing's move last month to impose national security legislation in Hong Kong, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the financial hub.

It also comes as Chinese media and some Beijing officials have voiced support for protests against police brutality across the United States.

Also read | From brutal Tiananmen crackdown to China's re-emergence: A timeline of events

In Hong Kong, officials have repeatedly said a ban on gatherings of more than eight people is a public health measure with no political motivation. Hong Kong Police urged people in a Facebook post on Wednesday not to participate in prohibited gatherings to "fight" the coronavirus.

Still, some people said they intended to go to the city's Victoria Park anyway, as volunteers handed out white candles to people making the morning commute.

Also, vigil organisers called on residents to light candles across the city instead at 8:00 pm local time (1200 GMT) and hold a minute of silence shortly after. Anyone fearing arrest for public action was encouraged to mark the day on social media using the hashtag #6431truth, referencing the 31th anniversary along with the date.

The Tiananmen crackdown is not officially commemorated in mainland China, where the topic is taboo and any discussion heavily censored.

The European Union on Wednesday urged China to allow people in both Hong Kong and Macau, its other semi-autonomous city, to commemorate the crackdown, saying it would be "a signal that key freedoms continue to be protected."

Democratically-ruled and Chinese-claimed Taiwan, where commemorations are planned throughout the day, called on China on Wednesday to apologise, a call dismissed by China's foreign ministry as "nonsense."

"In China, every year has only 364 days; one day is forgotten," Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen wrote on her Facebook page on Thursday. "I hope that in every corner of the earth there won't be any days that are disappeared again. And I wish Hong Kong well."

China has never provided a full accounting of the 1989 violence. The death toll given by officials days later was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say the death toll could have run into the thousands.