Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Sq. museum compelled to shut two days forward of memorial

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Hong Kong (CNN) — Hong Kong‘s most controversial vacation spot has been compelled to shut simply two days earlier than a massively important date within the international pro-democracy calendar.
Situated inside a nondescript high-rise constructing wedged between a fuel station and a freeway overpass in Kowloon, the June 4 Museum is the one museum in Higher China — which incorporates the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan — that commemorates the federal government’s crackdown towards pupil protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

On June 1, Hong Kong officers from the Meals and Environmental Hygiene Division (FEHD) visited the museum within the working-class space of Mong Kok and accused the organizers of working a “place of public leisure” illegally.

“Our division just lately acquired a complaints that somebody in a unit in a industrial constructing on Mong Kok Street was working an leisure venue with out the required license,” the FEHD informed CNN in a press release.

They added that this license is required for all companies that “entertain individuals” no matter whether or not they cost cash as an entry price. The museum was free to go to.

Some supporters have left flowers outdoors the museum’s closed door forward of June 4.

Courtesy June 4 Museum/Twitter

The timing was placing, coming days forward of the June 4 anniversary, when tens of 1000’s of Hong Kongers usually collect in Victoria Park to recollect the individuals who died within the crackdown.

The vigil was canceled final 12 months as a result of coronavirus outbreak, and on Saturday a courtroom sided with a police determination to cancel the occasion once more this 12 months, for a similar cause.

The subsequent day, the June 4 Museum’s organizers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Assist of Patriotic Democratic Actions of China (often simply known as The Hong Kong Alliance), invited patrons to put flowers on the museum to mark the day.

It was a dangerous transfer in a metropolis now topic to the National Security Law (NSL). Imposed by Beijing final June, it provides the authorities sweeping powers to detain individuals accused of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international powers.

The museum’s chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, noticed hassle coming. Again in March, he gave CNN a tour of the museum and predicted that the NSL might quickly shut it for good.

“(The NSL) is at all times like a knife hanging round your neck,” Lee mentioned. “We do not know when it could chop down on us.”

The facility of objects

This 12 months, Lee will spend June 4 behind bars. In April, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for organizing and taking part in unauthorized authorities protests in 2019. He faces additional prices for different actions.

Earlier than he was sentenced, Lee met with CNN after an extended day in West Kowloon’s excessive courtroom. He was in remarkably good spirits, regardless of the looming menace of a jail time period.

He walked CNN by means of a number of of his favourite items on show. Many had been donated to the museum by the Tiananmen Moms, a Chinese language activist group composed of oldsters and family members of individuals killed throughout the June 4 protests.

Essentially the most shifting items are the private ones — a Peking College T-shirt signed by activists, a bullet pulled from the leg of a labor organizer, a digital camera owned by a pupil who was shot whereas snapping footage of the day’s occasions, and pictures the identical pupil’s mother and father had developed posthumously.

Statues of Goddess of Democracy seen exhibited at the museum.

Collectible figurines of the Goddess of Democracy, a statue made and later destroyed throughout the Tiananmen Sq. protests, are on the market on the June 4 Museum.

Chan Lengthy Hei/SOPA Photographs/LightRocket/Getty Photographs

“The museum is just a part of our work,” Lee defined. He is aware of that actions do not simply occur in a single day, regardless of the museum’s identify. “We are attempting to firstly manage exercise occasions across the June 4 commemoration. So, yearly the June 4 commemoration vigil, and likewise the march earlier than that. Aside from the June 4 commemoration, we additionally supported a marketing campaign for the discharge of dissidents inside China.”

Only a few, if any, vigils will go forward this 12 months, attributable to restrictions imposed to cease the unfold of coronavirus. The Hong Kong Police Drive made it clear in a May 29 tweet that disobeying the foundations wouldn’t be tolerated: “Regulation banning gatherings of 4+ ppl nonetheless in power. Public ought to NOT participate in/promote/publicise unauthorised assemblies!”

In response, the Hong Kong Alliance launched a press release on Twitter confirming that it was compelled to cancel the vigil. Nonetheless, it added, “despite this, the alliance continues to consider that irrespective of how a lot the regime engages in oppression, the candlelight won’t ever disappear so long as individuals keep in mind.”

The June 4 Museum’s spring exhibit was about how a lot the occasions of Tiananmen Sq. mirror the protests of the previous few years in Hong Kong. Each actions had been led by younger individuals, and sought to push again towards China’s ruling Communist Get together and towards media censorship.

A number of the more moderen artifacts within the museum’s assortment are from the 2014 Yellow Umbrella motion and the more moderen protests in Hong Kong. They embrace renderings of Pepe the frog, a right-wing on-line meme that has been subverted and adopted by the anti-Beijing camp in recent times, and protecting gear worn by the scholars who organized an attempted takeover of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2019.

Lee says that some museum company merely need to be alone with their ideas. Others ask questions or defend China’s actions.

The person behind the mission

Lee was born in Shanghai in 1957 to a household whose roots are in Guangdong Province, which borders Hong Kong. He moved to Hong Kong as a younger man whereas town was nonetheless a British colony — first to attend college, then to work as a labor activist.

The Hong Kong Alliance was based in 1989, galvanized by the June 4 motion. Then, the group’s major concern was waiting for the 1997 handover of Hong Kong from the British to the Chinese language, and the way that will have an effect on life and politics within the metropolis.

“At the moment, the individuals of Hong Kong had been very a lot mobilized and moved by the scholars in China,” he explains of the burgeoning pro-democracy actions occurring on the mainland then. “Personally, I used to be after all very glad that folks in China began to battle for democracy. If there may be democracy in China, then there’s for positive democracy in Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong Alliance is commonly labeled as anti-Chinese language, which Lee dislikes. Regardless of spending most of his grownup life in Hong Kong, he very a lot considers himself Chinese language, often mentioning how a lot he loves China and is pleased with his heritage.

What the alliance desires is not an finish to China. Its said purpose is an finish to the single-party rule of the Chinese language Communist Get together (CCP) and a gap of the nation to totally different viewpoints and political events.

The June 4 protests in 1989 had been a part of a motion that had been rising throughout China calling for precisely that. The climactic occasions of Tiananmen Sq. started on April 15, after the sudden dying of Hu Yaobang, a reform-minded former CCP chief who had been ousted a number of years earlier. When Hu died, a gaggle of individuals — principally school college students from Peking College — gathered in Tiananmen Sq. within the coronary heart of Beijing to mourn him publicly. That mourning morphed right into a cry to motion as protesters pushed for governmental reform and a transfer to democracy.

Visitors look at artefacts recovered from the scene of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on display at the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on June 4, 2019.

Guests study artifacts on show on the June 4 Museum.

Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty Photographs

The only-day motion became weeks, with some college students happening starvation strikes. Extra individuals flocked to the sq., and the crowds grew greater and extra vocal.

The phrase “Tiananmen” means “Gate of Heavenly Peace” in Mandarin. Because the crowds swelled, the Chinese language navy marched on the sq. on June 4, arresting and killing most of the activists.

In the present day, dialogue of these occasions stays taboo in mainland China. The June 4 Museum in Hong Kong was very important to individuals remembering that day within the Higher China and past.

Vacationers from all around the world have visited it, leaving Put up-It notes with messages in several languages to make a Lennon Wall like those which have popped up round Hong Kong in assist of town’s more moderen pro-democracy motion. A few of these, just like the one at Hong Kong College, are nonetheless up, however others have been eliminated by police.

Regardless of the well-wishes from Australia, Finland, Japan and extra, a few of the most poignant messages had been these from Chinese language guests.

“I requested a man from Beijing, ‘How are you aware about our museum?'” Lee recalled asking one mainland visitor. “He mentioned, ‘In fact I learn about you and the museum, I used to be the one which censored it. I wrote down your tackle after I’m censoring your museum.’ After which he got here to our museum to go to.”

What occurs subsequent

Lee is in jail, nonetheless capable of talk with The Hong Kong Alliance and launch messages to his supporters by means of his legal professional. His solely little one has moved overseas, maybe completely.

The Hong Kong Alliance worries that if the museum is compelled to shut completely, the federal government could seize its property, so they’re working to digitize all the assortment in each English and Chinese language.

“The promised democracy has by no means materialized,” Lee mentioned, referring to the “One Nation, Two Techniques” method promised by Beijing to let town preserve a excessive diploma of autonomy till 2047, together with the introduction of common suffrage.

June 4 Museum Hong Kong Lights

Members of the Hong Kong Alliance carry lights to face in for the candles typically displayed on June 4.

Courtesy June 4 Museum/Twitter

However the passage of the Nationwide Safety Regulation has all however dashed that hope.

On April 16, Lee greeted a crowd of supporters outdoors the courtroom as he ready to start his jail time period. Wearing a natty button-down shirt, he was additionally sporting the surgical face masks that’s necessary in public in Hong Kong to protect towards coronavirus.

Shortly earlier than being walked to the jail van, the activist referenced an English-language tune by the Rogers & Hammerstein duo that has been adopted by the pro-democracy motion.

“I need to dedicate the tune ‘You may By no means Stroll Alone’ to the Hong Kong individuals. We’ll stroll collectively even in darkness with hope in our coronary heart,” he mentioned.

Lee’s subsequent public look shall be on June 11, when he’ll stand trial for 3 further prices of “inciting, organizing and taking part in an unauthorized meeting.”

This 12 months, unable to depart his cell, Lee will go on a one-day starvation strike in jail as his private tribute to June 4.

CNN’s Jadyn Sham contributed reporting.

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