How Hong Kong's Elite Have Embraced a Shifting Narrative on Tiananmen SquareBreaking News
tags: Tiananmen Square, human rights, Chinese history, Hong Kong
The group which for decades helped Hongkongers remember the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre is on the verge of disbanding as its leaders face trial on national security charges. But as recently as two years ago, the city’s leader was citing the candlelight vigil – which it organised – as a symbol of Hong Kong’s enduring freedoms.
In the early years of the Special Administrative Region government after the 1997 handover, events and discussions to commemorate the massacre in Beijing were considered by government officials and pro-Beijing political figures as a symbol of the city’s freedom of speech and of assembly after its return to China.
On June 4, 2019 – the last authorised candlelight vigil before it was banned for two successive years on coronavirus grounds – Chief Executive Carrie Lam said in response to a reporter’s question: “Today is a day of lots of memories for many. To the SAR government, this enshrines that Hong Kong is a very free society. We uphold and safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals in Hong Kong.”
After the vigil in Victoria Park the previous year, she commented: “Yesterday with cooperation by the police, there was an assembly, a demonstration, I think these reflect that Hong Kong is characterised by its respect and advocacy for freedom.”
But last week, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China – the organisation which for thirty years called for an end to China’s one-party rule and justice for massacre victims – saw its leaders behind bars, its funds frozen, and its social media content removed following demands from the national security police.
Like the Alliance and their pan-democrat peers who submitted motions to commemorate June 4 victims in the legislature at the end of each May, many political figures and senior government officials once voiced public support for the Beijing student movement that ended in bloodshed, and expressed sympathy for its victims.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing, and the massacre sent shockwaves around the world. Masses of Hong Kong political figures signed petitions or published statements of condemnation.
Over the years, however, many have risen in politics as pro-Beijing figures or taken government positions, growing more tight-lipped about China’s political scar. The Communist Party has still yet to account for the incident and it suppresses all mention of it in the mainland.