Tiananmen anniversary: US hails the ‘brave’ 33 years on as Hong Kong warns against gatherings

The victims of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square 33 years ago will not be forgotten, the US government has said, as Hong Kong warned against unlawful gatherings and Chinese authorities tightened security around the square in Beijing.

Saturday marks the 33rd anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire to end the student-led unrest in and around the square. Chinese authorities ban any public commemoration of the event on the mainland.

In a statement on Saturday, Asia time, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, termed the crackdown “a brutal assault”.

“The efforts of these brave individuals will not be forgotten. Each year, we honour and remember those who stood up for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“While many are no longer able to speak up themselves, we and many around the world continue to stand up on their behalf and support their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and the rights of individuals,” Blinken said.

“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4.”

Speaking on Thursday at a routine news conference in Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian reiterated the government’s standard line about those events.

“The Chinese government has long ago come to a clear conclusion about the political incident that happened in late 1980s,” he said.

Tiananmen vigils were set to be held globally on Saturday, with rights group Amnesty International coordinating candlelit ones in 20 cities “to demand justice and show solidarity for Hong Kong”.

Later on Saturday, activists were to gather in Taiwan’s capital of Taipei to commemorate the anniversary, likely the only part of the Chinese-speaking world where such a public event will take place, although in past years there have been large-scale commemorations in Chinese-run Hong Kong.

Taiwan’s China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council on Friday called on Beijing “to address the historical facts of the Tiananmen Square incident with sincerity, embark on political reforms [and] implement democratic governance”.

On Saturday morning, Chinese authorities tightened security in the area around Tiananmen Square, while any reference to 4 June was blocked from Chinese social media platforms.

In Hong Kong, police last year blocked off a park to prevent people gathering to commemorate the anniversary and arrested the planned vigil’s organiser.

Hong Kong police said late on Friday that part of Victoria Park, where the commemorations have happened in previous years, would be closed, and with the Covid-19 pandemic continuing people should not take part in “unauthorised assemblies and prohibited gatherings”.

“Police will deploy adequate manpower in relevant locations tomorrow and take resolute action to enforce the law, including making arrests,” police added. “The public should not defy the law.”

Kacey Wong, a Hong Kong artist who fled to Taiwan, said in Taipei: “The ability to commemorate the June 4 massacre has been drastically deteriorating in Hong Kong.

“Coming to Taiwan and having the ability once again to be human – to voice our concern, to mourn the dead – it’s a privilege; totally a privilege to be able to openly, in a public space together, to mourn.”

China imposed a tough new national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 punishing acts of subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces.

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