The Hong Kong Alliance has just opened the first museum memorializing the Tiananmen Square Massacre. The tiny museum, measuring only 800 square feet, sets itself up for a giant task: to remember an event that the Chinese regime has taken pains to hide.
On June 4, 1989, people all over the world watched their televisions in horror as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square to quash a student movement aimed at edging China closer to a democracy. These days it is rare for young Chinese to know about what happened. The ruling Chinese Communist Party denies any such event ever took place. If pressed, it instead maintains that the students were involved in a counter-revolutionary rebellion, and it was they who attacked soldiers.
To protect the cover-up, students involved in the demonstrations were arrested, and some imprisoned for over a decade. Twenty-three were executed. With today’s technology, the Communist Party can simply block information about Tiananmen Square using the Internet firewall that keeps “sensitive” information out of China.
All of this makes the efforts of the Hong Kong Alliance so remarkable. It opened the museum to honor the 25th anniversary of the event so it will not be forgotten. It features a documentary of what happened in Tiananmen Square. For visitors from the mainland, this may be their first opportunity to learn about what actually occurred.
A woman, who gave her name as “Kate,” said she was surprised to learn the truth about the massacre. She said she didn’t know that the students were against government corruption. “I am sure the officials are afraid to mention this part of our history.” This visitor, like all others, would not disclose her real name for fear of retaliation.
Another woman, a civil servant in China, said, “We are totally ignorant of these events. If you want me to share my thoughts … I have been thinking about when we can learn the truth. How long will we have to wait for that day?”