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Memory of Tiananmen Square endures despite censorship and alternative facts

HONG KONG (SE): On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on 4 June 1989, the Chinese government moved to stifle even the slightest mention of the tragic incident on social media platforms in China. AsiaNews reported on May 30 that live streaming and video sites, as well as web hosts had scheduled system updates making it impossible to change profile pictures, register new accounts or post comments in real time. The report noted that streaming sites like YY, Huya and Douyu announced that they would carry out system maintenance until June 6 or 7.
 
In Hong Kong, the only city in China where Tiananmen Square massacre is openly commemorated. As at the time of going to press, organisers expected a crowd of 180,000 to converge on Victoria Park for the annual candlelight vigil, despite seemingly uncooperative weather.
 
The South China Morning Post reported on June 4 that, although some localist student leaders had called for a boycott of the gathering, the organisers of the vigil remained confident of a large turnout for two major reasons: that it is the 30th anniversary of the terrible crackdown and the rising heat over the problematic extradition bill that would allow Hong Kong to hand over fugitives to mainland China and other jurisdictions with which it has no extradition deal. 
 
Concerns that Beijing will use the new law to target political opponents, or that suspects will not receive a fair trial on the mainland, still remain despite protestations and reassuring noises from the Hong Kong government.
 
In 2017, speaking at the prayer service prior to the candlelight remembrance of those who died before the guns and tank tracks of China’s military, Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing of Hong Kong, observed that some may have lost hope because there has been no democratic progress, but before democracy must come love for God and country (Sunday Examiner, 11 June 2017).
 
He explained that only with a deep love for God and each other in their hearts can a people give birth to a truly democratic nation. “In being loved by God, we see human dignity and the rights innate to every human being, as well as the equality and respect that is missing among the people, and the justice and peace that is missing in society,” the bishop continued.
 
He said it is because we have experienced the love of God that we cry out for democracy and our freedom as children of God, something which the bishop said he believes the students in Tiananmen Square felt.
 
At the 2018 prayer service, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, lamented that although nearly three decades had passed since the crackdown, the human rights situation in China as well as in Hong Kong had not shown any improvement and was even getting worse. He observed that the principle of One Country, Two Systems had not been maintained and the judicial system had been reduced to a tool for political suppression (Sunday Examiner, 10 June 2018).
 
However the cardinal was quick to remind the gathering not to carry hatred towards anyone. “Today we can be angry here, but we should never bear hatred,” he said, explaining that this was the advice of Pope St. John Paul II to the leaders of Solidarity, Poland’s independent labour movement in 1980s.
 
Meanwhile, in the early hours of June 4, CNN also made note of the censorship on mainland China of any coverage or discussion of the Tiananmen tragedy. It also reported that on May 3, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council had called on Beijing to “face up to historical mistakes and apologise as soon as possible for the crackdown.”
 
In a statement, the council said: “In the past 30 years, Beijing lacked the courage to calmly reflect on the historical significance of the June 4th Incident. Rather, they blocked the information and distorted the truth about it and tried to conceal the crime.”
 
The BBC reported that China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, who was attending the 18th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, tried to justify the bloody handling of events, labelling it a “political turbulence” and saying that “the central government took measures to stop the turbulence, which is a correct policy’” 
 
He insisted, “The past 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” adding that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development.”
 
CNN reported that there would be a rally in Washington DC, with representatives of dozens of human rights groups, including Amnesty International, expected to attend, as well as Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the United States (US) House of Representatives.
 
The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, issued a statement on June 3 saying that the massacre still stirred the conscience “of freedom-loving people around the world.”
 
He said, “We salute the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights,” urging the Chinese government to make a “full, public accounting” of the incident.

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