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Politics

Hong Kong's Tiananmen museum forced to close ahead of anniversary

Exhibits commemorating 1989 Beijing crackdown had reopened three days earlier

Hong Kong's June 4th Museum received more than 550 visitors after reopening on May 30. 

HONG KONG -- A museum in Hong Kong commemorating China's crackdown on unarmed students and civilians in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, was forced to shut just two days ahead of the 32nd anniversary of the tragic event.

The June 4th Museum reopened on Sunday after being closed since last June for renovations in the wake of China's move to impose a national security law over the city criminalizing acts of subversion.

In a notice on Wednesday, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the museum's operator, said that inspectors from the city's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department visited the site on Tuesday afternoon and declared its operations to be illegal due to its lacking a public entertainment license under an ordinance enacted in 1919.

The Hong Kong Alliance, which also has organized an annual mass commemoration of the Tiananmen massacre in the city's Victoria Park, said it would temporarily close the museum to protect the safety of staff and visitors while seeking further legal advice.

More than 550 people had visited the museum since its reopening. It was due to stay open late on June 4 for city residents to pay respects to those who died in 1989 as the city has banned the Victoria Park event for a second consecutive year, citing gathering restrictions under COVID-19 social distancing regulations.

Pro-democracy activist Joshua Wong last month was sentenced to 10 months in prison for joining last year's unauthorized observance. Three other defendants who pled guilty in the case received sentences of four to six months.

Another 20 people, including Apple Daily publisher Jimmy Lai and leaders of the Hong Kong Alliance, still face trial in the case.

In a statement on Saturday following confirmation of the city's ban on this year's event, the government Security Bureau warned that anyone taking part in an unauthorized assembly could face up to five years in prison. It added that anyone "advertising or publicizing" such an event also could be jailed for a year.

The Alliance said in its Wednesday statement that Hong Kong people's feelings and sympathies for the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown will not disappear despite "the difficult political situation in front of us."

Former legislators Lee Cheuk-yan, center in blue mask, and Albert Ho, left, are among those facing trial over joining last June's unauthorized observance in Victoria Park. (Photo by Kenji Kawase)

The group called on people to be flexible in commemorating the event this year "in their own ways, at an appropriate time and place, under legal, safe, peaceful and rational situations."

Some leaders of the Alliance, as well as Wang Dan, a veteran of the 1989 movement, have called on Hong Kong people to light memorial candles in their home windows since they will not be allowed to do so together in the park.

"We must not let the tradition of those beautiful scenes die," Wang wrote two weeks ago. "Let the city of Hong Kong be a city of candles. Show your determination to 'Never forget and never give up.'"

Hong Kong's June 4 Museum offers the only such permanent exhibits on the crackdown anywhere. It first opened in a temporary site in 2012, then moved to a permanent home two years later. It was forced to close in 2017 under pressure from the venue's landlord. It moved to its current home in the Mong Kok neighborhood of Kowloon in 2019.

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