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In a changing Hong Kong, activists fight to keep alive memory of Tiananmen massacre

In a changing Hong Kong, activists fight to keep alive memory of Tiananmen massacre

HONG KONG — Lee Cheuk-yan, 64, remembers hearing the gunfire as he holed up in his Beijing resort room. He watched the Of us’s Liberation Army tanks roll into Tiananmen Square and bicycle rickshaws ferry out the injured and dead. It was June 4, 1989.

After being briefly detained, he returned to his dwelling in Hong Kong, the place for the next three decades he helped arrange an annual vigil at Victoria Park to mark the massacre and honor the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who died within the fight for a democratic China.

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Now Lee is in reformatory, serving 20 months for his feature in protests, and faces extra charges including some related to the June 4 vigil — which after 30 years of being allowed was all of sudden banned last year. Other activists who defied that inform have also been detained, and the vigil remains illegal.

Since China imposed a safety law on Hong Kong last summer season that outlaws dissent, authorities have embarked on a campaign to rewrite history. Museum shows are underneath renovation. The general public broadcaster is scrubbing critical programs. Publishers are revising textbooks to fall per the Chinese language authorities’s most popular narrative — in which Britain was an occupying vitality in Hong Kong, the Communist Party is a benevolent drive and the homegrown war for democracy never existed. Beijing has plan up a contemporary “propaganda” division within town.

However the battle is felt most keenly over the memory of June 4, which a handful of activists are making an attempt to withhold despite the jailing of vigil organizers and warnings of that you can imagine arrest from the authorities.

As a measure of the authorities’ contemporary no-tolerance attitude toward the date, a 65-year-earlier-fashioned woman was briefly detained Sunday for keeping a stamp linked to June 4 on the road.

The vigil — probably the most straightforward large-scale commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre on Chinese language soil — is emerging as a take a look at of Hong Kong’s willingness to face up to Beijing’s repression and a marker of what’s left of its civil society.

“Defending the memory of Tiananmen is the primary line of defense,” said Chow Hang Tung, a barrister who is also a member of Lee’s neighborhood that organizes the yearly vigil. “We have to utilize this second to say Hong Kong other folks will now not put up to your rewriting of history.”

China has officially censored any discussion of the June 4 massacre and has never released a death toll of these killed. The 1989 crackdown ended months-prolonged protests within the heart of Beijing calling for greater freedom; they had drawn crowds of up to a million — a rare outpouring of the Chinese language other folks’s democratic aspirations. A complete lot of millions of Chinese language composed achieve now not know what happened there.

Because the massacre — and even after the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from Britain to China — the territory allowed large-scale acknowledgment and discussion of June 4, marking the variation in freedoms guaranteed to its residents underneath the “one country, two methods” framework.

The national safety law, which passed last June, was designed to erase such differences between Hong Kong and the mainland. Since its passage, museums and textbooks have changed their language on topics deemed delicate.

At the History Museum, the “Hong Kong Story” exhibition, an interactive scurry thru town’s past, closed last October for a authorities-led revamp. A temporary, condensed reveal mounted in its place has been criticized by historians for its subtle shift toward a Beijing-approved version of history, which de-emphasizes the feature of Britain, Hong Kong’s colonial ruler. China is referred to as the “motherland” within the contemporary exhibition, and the observe “colony” has been removed in explainers.

Some textbooks have long gone even extra. Teaching materials for a field called “liberal research,” as soon as hailed for its emphasis on critical contemplating, refer to British rule as an “occupation” in violation of international conventions. History books for excessive faculty college students have credited Hong Kong’s rise as an international finance heart to the mainland, according to screenshots of the textbooks shared with The Washington Post, though its financial rise happened underneath the British within the 1950s.

Some textbook publishers have lowered mentions of the June 4 massacre to merely an “incident,” or they have removed them altogether. The town’s public broadcaster, which in contemporary months has been reined in by the authorities, removed an episode of a program displaying organizers of the June 4 vigil running in a marathon to mark the massacre.

Louisa Lim, author of a book about the legacy of Tiananmen Square, said a “route of of amnesia” in China is now being introduced to Hong Kong, and is designed to inculcate in other folks a sense of belonging totally to the Chinese language Communist Party.

“It is now not accurate rewriting the past, but writing the prolonged race,” she said.

Police last week for the second year in a row cited the coronavirus pandemic in banning the June 4 vigil. Hong Kong, however, has recorded no contemporary local infections for several days in a row, and events treasure art fairs and soccer games have been allowed to proceed.

The ban adopted weeks of warnings against participation. Pro-Beijing officials have said that the vigil’s call for a democratic China can be in violation of the safety law, which punishes broadly defined crimes with lifestyles in reformatory. On Saturday, after vigil organizers lost an appeal to proceed with the event, Hong Kong’s Security Bureau said that anyone participating in an unauthorized assembly can be jailed for up to five years and that other folks who publicize such an event may perhaps face an additional 12-month sentence.

“If anyone attempts to challenge the law, including . . . [the] Hong Kong National Security Law, and so on., the police will deal with it significantly,” the bureau added.

Despite similar warnings last year, outstanding activists such as Joshua Wong entered the park, emboldening thousands of others to achieve the same. In feedback on June 4 last year, Lee said authorities couldn’t stop the folk from expressing their democratic will. The vigil was peaceful, and police made no arrests — at the time.

Wong, Lee and others have been later arrested for his or her roles within the vigil, adding to the checklist of charges against them for his or her roles in other protests. Courts have imposed prolonged sentences whether or now not the demonstrations enthusiastic violence.

“The value of remembering is really escalating in Hong Kong,” said Lim, the author.

Chow admits that the arrests and warnings have had the achieve of “scary other folks.”

“It’s the reality we have to face that now not all other folks can pay that stamp,” she said.

Organizers of the June 4 march in a news conference apologized to the public after the police banned their event, acknowledging that they may now not organize the vigil in a “lawful manner.”

“We’re going to be able to stop promoting the vigil,” said Richard Tsoi, secretary of the Hong Kong Alliance in Enhance of Patriotic Democratic Actions of China, Lee and Chow’s neighborhood.

Gentle, pockets of resilience remain. At least seven church buildings plan to wander ahead with Masses mourning these lost within the June 4 massacre. The Hong Kong Alliance has encouraged others to gentle a candle anywhere they are as an act of remembrance, even though they cannot gather at Victoria Park. Chow said she is going to, in her agree with capacity, proceed to “gentle a candle in a place anyone can glimpse,” keeping to the 32-year tradition.

“The authorities may be able to ban gatherings, but it absolutely cannot stop candles being lit in each nook of Hong Kong,” she said. “The more one wants to stifle the sunshine, the brighter the candle will burn.”

Those in jail, too, remain defiant. Lee, addressing the court after pleading guilty to charges related to a thunder on China’s National Day in 2019, described his lifelong activism as an “unrequited treasure” for his country.

“By my agree with definition, patriotism is loving my other folks,” he said. “The feature of the national institution is to defend the freedom and dignity of its other folks, but now not to keep an eye on the minds and behavior of them.”

In a changing Hong Kong, activists fight to keep alive memory of Tiananmen massacre