For the third year in a row, authorities in Hong Kong have banned the commemoration of victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
The vigil by candlelight to mark the crackdown on June 4, 1989 – an annual fixture attended by tens of thousands of people until the coronavirus pandemic – will not take place again this year.
Police officers patrolled around and cordoned off Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Saturday to prevent any unofficial gatherings.
The Special Administrative Region was for a long time the only place in China where the victims of the Tiananmen massacre were allowed to be commemorated.
Coronavirus regulations, as well as the introduction of a harsh security law for Hong Kong in the summer of 2020, meant the vigil was no longer allowed.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen – who has repeatedly decried Beijing’s growing authority over Hong Kong – lamented the lack of any public event in Hong Kong to remember Tiananmen.
Using brutal means to remove people’s memory of the massacre will eventually fail, Tsai said.
“The collective memory for the June Fourth crackdown has been systematically removed from the society of Hong Kong,” Tsai said, citing the removal of statues commemorating the massacre after a national security law was implemented in mid-2020.
In Taipei, a ceremony was held on Saturday evening by activists and Hongkongers living in Taiwan, attended by an estimated 2000 people.
A red copy of the Pillar of Shame, a work of protest art which was taken down in Hong Kong last year, was unveiled on Liberty Square in downtown Taipei.
Wang Dan, a former student leader who witnessed the 1989 events, told participants in a pre-recorded film from the US that the Chinese Communist Party was gradually revealing its full ambitions, which “threatened civilisation and democracy”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken took to Twitter to mark the anniversary.
“33 years have passed since the world watched brave demonstrators and bystanders peacefully demand democracy in Tiananmen Square,” he wrote.
“Despite the removal of memorials and attempts to erase history, we honor their memory by promoting respect for human rights wherever threatened.”