Taiwanans commemorate Tiananmen anniversary

Taiwanans commemorate Tiananmen anniversary

Hundreds of people gathered in Taipei to commemorate China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square 33 years ago.

Saturday was the anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire to end student-led unrest in and around the square in central Beijing. The events of June 4th, 1989 in China have never provided a full death toll, but rights groups and witnesses say the figure could run into thousands.

Taiwan is the only part of the Chinese-speaking world where it can be remembered openly because China bans any public commemoration of the event on the mainland.

A new version of the Pillar of Shame, a statue commemorating Tiananmen protesters, was removed in December by activists from a Hong Kong university, where it had stood for more than two decades.

After the statue was erected, a spokesman for Hong Kong rang out.

Hong Kong's leader, Carrie Lam, said this week that any events to commemorate those killed in the 1989 crackdown would be subject to national security laws.

In Victoria Park, where people had come together for an annual vigil before the Covid-19 epidemic hit, authorities blocked off main parts of the venue and warned residents against illegal gatherings.

Hundreds of police patrolled the park area and conducted stop- and- search checks, some with sniffer dogs. The floodlights lit up an empty expanse of football pitches as night fell.

The last time the vigil was held in Hong Kong in 2019, more than 180,000 people attended, filling six football fields, according to the organisers.

Everyone is silent because they are afraid of being arrested, Hong Kong resident Victor, 57, who asked to be identified only by his first name, said inside the park.

In June 2020, China imposed a national security law on Hong Kong that punishes acts of subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with sentences of up to life imprisonment. After anti-government protests in 2019, Beijing said the law was necessary to restore stability.

Since the legislation was introduced, the Hong Kong authorities have targeted people and organisations affiliated with 4 June and events to mark it.

Since 2020, the annual vigil has been banned under Covid restrictions that some democracy campaigners accuse the authorities of using to suppress activism. Officials don't agree with the claim.

The planned vigil organisers were arrested last year by police after they blocked off the park to prevent people from gathering to commemorate the anniversary.

The prominent Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao said to remember is to resist. If no one remembers, the suffering of the people will never stop and the perpetrators will continue their crimes with impunity. Taiwan's president Tsai Ing-wen decried the collective memory of June 4, being systematically erased in Hong Kong But we believe that such brute force cannot erase people's memories, she posted on her Facebook and Instagram pages.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said the Tiananmen crackdown was a brutal assault. The efforts of these brave individuals will not be forgotten, he said.

The spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, Zhao Lijian, reiterated Beijing's line at a routine news conference on Thursday. He said that the Chinese government has come to a clear conclusion about the political incident that happened in the late 1980s.