More than 30 years after it slaughtered thousands of its own people in Tiananmen Square and two years after it began taking steps to crack down on Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now banning Hong Kong from commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre, and police have been sent to patrol the streets and arrest any dissenters.
A common theme of totalitarian, communist regimes is their unwillingness to ever admit fault, leading to cover ups. Perhaps no regime refuses to own up to its crimes and mistakes more than China. The CCP has all but erased the Tiananmen Square massacre from memory in mainland China and is working to do the same in Hong Kong.
A secret British report sent by the U.K.’s ambassador to China Sir Alan Ewen Donald on the day after the Tiananmen Square massacre estimates that at least 10,000 people were killed during the crackdown. The contents are graphic and horrifying. The document explained,
“Students understood they were given one hour to leave square but after five minutes APCs [armoured personnel carriers] attacked. Students linked arms but were mown down including soldiers. APCs then ran over bodies time and time again to make ‘pie’ and remains collected by bulldozer. Remains incinerated and then hosed down drains. 27 Army ordered to spare no one and shot wounded SMR soldiers. Four wounded girl students begged for their lives but were bayoneted. A 3-year-old girl was injured but her mother was shot as she went to her aid as were six others who tried.”
The report added: “A thousand survivors were told they could escape via Zhengyi Lu but were then mown down by specially prepared M/G [machine gun] positions.”
While China has been largely successful at removing the atrocity from public consciousness on the mainland, Hong Kong has commemorated the massacre each year. As Beijing continues to tighten its grip on Hong Kong, however, it is now outlawing memorials in the once-free city.
Authorities have banned the annual vigil in Victoria Park and abruptly closed Hong Kong’s June 4th Museum. Thousands of police are patrolling the streets with instructions to watch for anyone wearing a “black T-shirt, black trousers, with candlelight, or shouting slogans in connection to the June 4 incident.”
Police have already arrested pro-democracy activist Chow Hang Tung, who is vice chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance, which organizes annual vigils for victims of the massacre. Chow, who is a lawyer, said, “I am prepared to be arrested. This is how Hong Kong is now. If you fight for democracy under an authoritarian regime, being arrested is unavoidable. Let it come. I am willing to pay the price for fighting for democracy.”
When she was interviewed last month, Chow said, “I will light up a candle in the street. Are you going to arrest me for that?”
Chiu Yan Loy, executive member of the Hong Kong Alliance, said, “She only wanted to go to Victoria Park, light a candle and commemorate,” adding that he believes the arrest is meant to strike fear into anyone planning to attend the vigil.
Tiananmen Mothers, which represents victims’ relatives, issued an appeal to the government to allow for vigils, saying, “We look forward to the day when the CPC [Communist Party of China] and the Chinese government can sincerely and courageously set the record straight and take up their due responsibility for the anti-human 1989 massacre in accordance with the law and the facts.”
That is unlikely to ever happen as the group explained that young Chinese citizens have “grown up in a false sense of prosperous jubilance and enforced glorification of the government (and) have no idea of or refuse to believe what happened on June 4, 1989, in the nation’s capital.”
China’s crackdown on Tiananmen Square memorials is not simply another act of oppression, it is a symbolic crushing of democracy in Hong Kong. It is hard to imagine that Hong Kong will ever return to its former glory as one of the freest cities in the world.
Not only do communist regimes lie to cover up their crimes and errors, but they lie in general. When Great Britain returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the CCP agreed that the people there would continue to enjoy their long-held political and economic freedoms, but as should surprise no one, the CCP lied. The systematic dismantling of Hong Kong’s civil liberties, government, and autonomy shows that China feels emboldened to do whatever it wants and does not fear any response from the West.
Given China’s resources, population, and military, it is unlikely that the West will be able to do much of anything about China’s oppression of Hong Kong. In fact, besides writing strongly worded statements, current Western leaders seem to have little interest in confronting the CCP. Laughably, China even has a seat on the U.N. Human Rights Council and has bought off the American mainstream media and many American corporations.
If Hong Kong is to regain its freedom, the spark will likely have to ignite from within and it seems that the pro-democracy movement still has many who are willing to suffer for freedom. As Chow Hang Tung said, “This will be the first June 4 since the National Security Law. Many ask if the vigil will disappear. I think we have been persisting for more than 30 years. It is more or less in Hong Kong people’s DNA.”
Many in Hong Kong have been arrested and jailed for standing for freedom, but the movement needs many more to answer the call to courageously and unwaveringly stand — including the governments of the U.S., the U.K., and other pro-freedom nations.