The Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 is one of the bloodiest assaults on a student movement. Hundreds of unarmed civilians were brutally attacked by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) when the protestors asked for their nation to be a democracy. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has censored the topic to such an extent that not many young people even know about the massacre. But in Hong Kong, a group of activists has reopened a museum commemorating the event despite threats against such a move.
Named the “June 4 Memorial Museum,” it was first opened in 2014 in a commercial building and was forced to shut down due to pressure from the landlords. The organizers believed that their forced expulsion was politically motivated, since the CCP clearly does not want any commemoration of their brutality to exist in Hong Kong. Currently, the museum is located in the district of Mong Kok.
“The reopening of this June 4th Museum on the 30th anniversary is a clear demonstration of our commitment to uphold memory, pursue justice and hope for the future of our country… We cannot lose sight of the past and close eyes to injustice in the past, because if we did not remember the past, we would lose sight of the future… We will continue … to call for vindication of the student movement and … to bring those responsible to justice,” Albert Ho, head of a group that operates the museum, said to the Japan Times.
When it was first opened a few years back, the museum attracted close to 20,000 visitors during the initial two years. Most of the visitors were mainland Chinese who wanted to know the truth about what happened in Tiananmen. Exhibits at the museum include photographs of the protests and the subsequent massacre, a replica of the “Goddess of Democracy” statue that was part of the protests, and several other mementos.
Organizers hope that the newly reopened museum will attract visitors in similar numbers. Prior to its reopening, a group of people had protested before the museum asking for it to be shut down. It was also vandalized. Hong Kong is the only city in China still holding such events that highlight the brutality of the CCP. This is possible because of the “one country, two systems” framework that allows the city to retain some of its freedoms. But pro-democracy activists worry that Beijing is tightening its grip on Hong Kong in such a manner that museums like the June 4 Memorial won’t be able to operate for long.
Chinese communists had blocked Wikipedia in the country weeks before the 30th anniversary of the massacre. Beijing has been blocking the Chinese language page of Wikipedia since 2015. But the current ban was applied to all language versions of the website. Wikipedia was not notified by the Chinese government as to why the ban was in place.
“With the expansion of this block, millions of readers and volunteer editors, writers, academics, and researchers within China cannot access this resource or share their knowledge and achievements with the world… When one country, region, or culture cannot join the global conversation on Wikipedia, the entire world is poorer,” Wikipedia said in a statement (National Post).
Several people known to be sympathetic to the Tiananmen protests have also been brought under surveillance by the state. Some have been moved to undisclosed locations, while a few others have been put under house arrest.