Hong Kongers are seeking innovative ways to commemorate the victims of China’s Tiananmen Square Massacre after authorities banned an annual vigil and vowed to stamp out any protests on the anniversary today.
Discussion of tanks and troops quelling democracy protesters in Beijing on June 4, 1989, is all but forbidden in mainland China and there is heavy censorship of the images from the crackdown so well known in the rest of the world.
However, in Hong Kong the date has been remembered with huge candlelight vigils in Victoria Park for the past three decades.
Last year’s vigil was banned for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but thousands of people defied police and rallied anyway.
This year’s vigil has been banned again, ostensibly because of the pandemic.
Officials have also warned that the National Security Law could be wielded against Tiananmen mourners.
So Hong Kongers are getting creative.
Local artist Kacey Wong (黃國才) has collected hundreds of spent candle stubs from previous vigils and plans to give them to residents tonight.
“It is time to redistribute them to the people of Hong Kong so they can collect them, preserve them and put them in a safe place,” Wong told reporters.
Wong has previously turned the candles into artwork, but will give them away this year at two stores of local clothing brand Chickeeduck, which sells pro-democracy merchandise.
“Each burned candle contains a person’s mourning toward those who sacrificed themselves in pursuit of democracy, as well as one’s longing for democracy, a mix of complex emotions,” Wong said. “It’s a testimony of hope... I hope they can continue to shine the way towards freedom and democracy.”
Historically, the Tiananmen vigil candles are lit at 8:09pm — representing 1989.
A vigil organiser, former Hong Kong legislator Albert Ho (何俊仁) — who is serving a prison term — said that Hong Kongers could light candles or shine mobile phone lights in their local neighborhoods.
“We can regard the whole of Hong Kong as Victoria Park,” he told the South China Morning Post before he was sentenced last week for attending previous democracy protests.
Social media presents another avenue.
Artist Tozer Pak (白雙全) has called on residents to write the numbers six and four — representing June 4 — on light switches to mark Tiananmen every time they turn them on.
“Guard the truth and refuse to forget,” Pak wrote on Facebook.
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