China Stifles Efforts in Hong Kong to Remember the Tiananmen Square Massacre
How do you feel about the Chinese government suppressing Tiananmen vigils?
What’s the story?
- The Chinese government’s police forces made several arrests and used heavy-handed searches of would-be demonstrators to suppress vigils in Hong Kong commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
- In the 33 years since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched its brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Hong Kong and Macau were essentially the only places where such remembrances could occur.
- But in 2019, China reneged on its pledge to allow Hong Kong to practice a democratic form of government under common law through 2047 when it implemented a national security law that effectively criminalizes advocacy for democracy in Hong Kong by anyone in the world. Punishment for violating the law could include life in prison and confiscation of property.
- Since the enactment of the national security law, pro-CCP authorities in Hong Kong and Macau have banned vigils, exhibits, and other efforts to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre amid a broader effort to stifle calls for democracy and the free press.
What happened in the Tiananmen Square massacre?
- In 1989, pro-democracy protesters in China held demonstrations in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to call on the Communist Party to reform and give the Chinese people political freedom.
- The protests were set off by the death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader who pursued market-oriented economic reforms to the benefit of China’s economy but was forced out by Party elders who blamed him for a wave of protests in 1987. On April 21, a day before Yaobang’s funeral, 100,000 students marched on Tiananmen Square calling for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and greater government accountability.
- The demonstrations resonated with the Chinese public. At their peak, more than 1 million people were in the Square, and protests spread to cities around China. They also exposed divisions within the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership: hardliners who viewed the protests as a “counter-revolutionary” threat that had to be extinguished clashed with reform-minded members who sought additional dialogue.
- Following a political purge that put the balance of power in the Politburo in favor of the hardliners, the Chinese government declared martial law in late May and mobilized as many as 250,000 troops to Beijing.
- Early on the morning of June 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army pushed through Beijing to the Square, using tanks and machine guns to drive out the protesters and those who got in the PLA’s way. The exact number of people killed in the crackdown is unknown because of the Chinese government’s censorship, but the death toll has been estimated between several hundred to several thousand depending on the source.
- The pro-democracy movement in China has largely been stifled since the crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989, and the event itself is one of the most censored in China.
- The Communist Party prohibits the event’s discussion in media reporting and educational materials, internet searches for the topic are blocked, and security forces are mobilized annually on June 4th to prevent public remembrances.
- China’s New Security Law Criminalizes Advocacy for Democracy in Hong Kong by Anyone in the World (7/8/20)
- How the U.S. Responded to China’s Massacre at Tiananmen Square 30 Years Ago On This Date (6/4/19)
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: capelle79 via Flickr / Creative Commons)