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Asia Minute: Hong Kong Marks Beijing’s Grim Anniversary

AP Photo/Jeff Widener

Friday will mark 32 years since the Tiananmen Square protests ended in violence and deaths in Beijing. One place where that grim anniversary is usually marked with candlelight vigils will be quieter than usual this year.

Thirty-two years ago, tanks of the Peoples Liberation Army rolled through Tiananmen Square in the Chinese capital—crushing a protest and an unknown number of lives.

Three years ago, the BBC quoted a classified British diplomatic cable estimating “at least 10,000 people” were killed.

The British ambassador in Beijing at the time said the source was a friend of someone who was a member of China’s State Council—the functional equivalent of a presidential cabinet.

Hong Kong has long been the center of commemoration when it comes to remembering Tiananmen.

Last year authorities banned the candlelight vigil that usually marks the anniversary, citing the coronavirus.

Local media reports say thousands still showed up, but far short of the estimated 180,000 that turned out the year before.

This year, the government again banned any protests because of the coronavirus.

But there’s a new twist—activists fear a national security law imposed last year could be used against demonstrators.

Organizers were denied a permit to rally at Victoria Park, but one of the leaders said, “You can go down to the street and light a candle—that cannot be in any way against the law.”

She continued, “We are asking Hong Kong people to light a candle at 8 p.m.—wherever you are. It’s a different way of organizing.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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