An annual temporary exhibition in Hong Kong dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre has been shut down by Chinese authorities just three days before the anniversary of the event.
Critics say the move is part of a broader government crackdown on pro-democracy protests in mainland China that has in recent years increasingly targeted events in Hong Kong.
Yesterday, June 1, officials from the local Food and Environmental Hygiene Department shuttered the June 4th Museum, as the annual show is called, saying the organizer, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, was operating the site illegally.
In a statement to CNN, the Hygiene Department said it had “recently received complaints that someone in a unit in a commercial building on Mong Kok Road was operating an entertainment venue without the required license.”
The Alliance’s management committee detailed the incident in a press release, explaining that it “decided after deliberation that further legal advice is needed on the incident. In order to protect the safety of staff and visitors, the museum is temporarily closed until further notice.”
Mounted annually, the June 4th Museum brings together photographs and other artifacts from the 1989 democracy movement, as well as belongings of those who were killed. During the three days the venue was open this year prior to its shutdown, more than 550 people visited, according to the Hong Kong Alliance.
The group also organizes a candlelight vigil every year on June 4 in recognition of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, when soldiers killed hundreds and perhaps thousands of pro-democracy protesters.
For decades, the autonomous cities of Hong Kong and Macau were the only Chinese regions in which memorials to infamous episode could be held. Some fear that may be starting to change.
For the second year in a row, the Chinese government canceled this year’s vigil in Hong Kong, citing health concerns related to the COVID-19 crisis. Despite the ban on last year’s vigil, thousands still gathered in a Hong Kong park to commemorate the victims of the massacre. Roughly 20 activists were arrested weeks later for participating in the event.
With police warning against a similar gathering this year, the Alliance is encouraging people to memorialize the Tiananmen Square Massacre in a safe way.
“In the face of the current difficult political situation, the Alliance still believes that Hong Kong people’s feelings of not forgetting June 4th will not disappear,” the group said in its statement.
“We also ask Hong Kong people to mourn June 4th with wisdom, flexibility, and perseverance, under legal, safe, peaceful, and rational circumstances, in their own way, at the right time and place. Let the truth prevail!”