Some Western countries sent coded messages of support as Hong Kong authorities banned public commemoration of the deadly 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown for the third consecutive year.
For many years, Hong Kong and nearby Macau were the only places in China allowed to mark the violent crackdown by army troops on student protesters demanding greater democracy in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. It is estimated that several hundred to several thousand people were killed.
But rallies to mark the day’s events have been banned since Beijing imposed a national security law following massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019.
On Saturday, there was a heavy police presence enforcing the ban in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, the traditional site of the annual Tiananmen candlelight vigil, with several people arrested.
Amid the ban, some Western consulates sent coded messages appearing to mark the anniversary of Tiananmen Square and support those who defied the ban.
Hong Kong consulates recently received reminders urging them not to comment on or publicly post on social media about the Tiananmen Square protests, an envoy said. The South China Morning Post. According to the newspaper, it was the first time that such an appeal had been made to the consulates of Western countries.
The Polish consulate in Hong Kong shared an infographic on Facebook noting that Poland was the “largest producer of candles in the European Union” in what was widely seen as a tribute to Tiananmen Square.
The European Union office in Hong Kong and Macao was more blunt, sharing a photo of lit candles on a windowsill on social media with the caption: “In commemoration of the 33rd anniversary of the #TiananmenSquare crackdown on # June 4, 1989”.
In what appeared to be support for those gathering to mark the anniversary, the caption added: “The European Union always stands in solidarity with human rights defenders around the world.”
The Australian Consulate in Hong Kong and Macau also recognized the anniversary.
“Today we remember those who lost their lives in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989,” it read on Facebook. “Australia’s commitment to universal human rights is enduring. We continue to uphold the right of every person to freedom of expression, association, political participation and religion or belief. “
The US Consulate in Hong Kong shared a photo on Facebook showing it lit candles in the windows of the building to mark the anniversary.
The consulate also shared US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s statement marking the anniversary.
Blinken said that while authorities in China and Hong Kong are trying to remove the memorabilia from Tiananmen Square, the US government will continue to speak out and promote accountability for China’s human rights abuses, including those of Hong Kong, against the Muslim minorities of the West. Xinjiang region as well as Tibet.
“Each year, we pay tribute to those who have defended human rights and fundamental freedoms and we remember those who have defended human rights and fundamental freedoms. While many are no longer able to speak out, we and many others around the world continue to champion their cause and support their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and the rights of individuals,” he said.
“Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to echo in Hong Kong, where the annual vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre was banned by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities in a bid to suppress memories of that day We will continue to expose and promote accountability for atrocities and human rights violations in the PRC, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet.
“To the Chinese people and those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4.”