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Heavy security in China and Hong Kong on anniversary of Tiananmen crackdown: NPR

Police guard the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Tuesday.  While Beijing's hardening political stance has effectively ended any large-scale commemoration within its borders, commemorative events abroad have become increasingly crucial to preserving memories of China's repression. Tiananmen.

Police guard the Tiananmen Gate in Beijing on Tuesday. While Beijing’s hardening political stance has effectively ended any large-scale commemoration within its borders, commemorative events abroad have become increasingly crucial to preserving memories of China’s repression. Tiananmen.

Ng Han Guan/AP

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Ng Han Guan/AP

BEIJING — Checkpoints and rows of police vehicles lined a main road leading to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Tuesday, as China stepped up security to mark the 35th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-government protests. of democracy.

China has long erased all memory of the killings, when the Chinese government ordered the military to end months-long protests and maintain communist rule. Around 180,000 armed soldiers and police arrived with tanks and armored vehicles and fired on the crowds as they moved towards Tiananmen Square.

The death toll remains unknown to this day. Hundreds, if not thousands, were reportedly killed during an operation that began the previous night and ended on the morning of June 4, 1989.

The crackdown became a turning point in China’s modern history, ending a crisis favoring Communist Party hardliners who advocated control over political reform.

The economy boomed in the following decades, turning a once-poor country into the world’s second-largest economy, but societal controls have been tightened since party leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Throughout China, the event remains a sensitive and taboo subject, heavily censored, and any mention or reference on social networks is deleted.

It was a day like any other in the Chinese capital, with hundreds of tourists lining the streets leading to the gateways to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace across the road on the north side of the place. Those who lost family members during the crackdown generally cannot gather or mourn in public.

Asked by a foreign journalist to comment on the 35th anniversary at a daily Foreign Ministry press briefing on Monday, spokesman Mao Ning shrugged off the event.

“The Chinese government has long reached a clear conclusion about the political turmoil that took place in the late 1980s,” she said, without elaborating.

The Mothers of Tiananmen, a group formed by victims’ families, launched an online appeal to the Chinese government to publish the names and numbers of those who died, provide compensation to the victims and their relatives and take legal responsibility those responsible.

“The June 4 tragedy is a historic tragedy that the Chinese government must face and explain to its people, and some members of the government at the time should be held legally responsible for the indiscriminate killing of innocent people,” the group said in a letter signed by 114 members of his family and published on his website, blocked in China.

Tiananmen memorials were also destroyed in Hong Kong – for years the only place in China where they could take place. On Tuesday, a carnival organized by pro-Beijing groups took place in a park that for decades was the site of a huge candlelight vigil marking the anniversary.

Police used a new national security law to arrest eight people over the past week for social media posts commemorating the crackdown, including Chow Hang-tung, a former organizer of the vigil. Several pro-democracy activists told The Associated Press that police had inquired about their plans for Tuesday.

Police were out in force in Causeway Bay, a bustling shopping district near the park where the vigil was held. The previous evening, police briefly arrested an entertainer in the same area.

Some Hong Kong residents remembered the event privately, running 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) on Monday – a reference to the date June 4 – and sharing Tiananmen-related content on social media. The British consulate posted a photo on social media platform X showing a smartphone flashlight turned on with “VIIV”, the Roman numerals for 6/4, printed on it.

An independent bookstore, which displayed “35/5” on its window – a roundabout reference to the date of the crackdown, May 35 – wrote on Instagram that police officers were stationed outside the store for an hour on Sunday, during which they recorded the identity data of the customers.

Hong Kong leader John Lee did not respond directly when asked Tuesday whether residents could still publicly mourn the crackdown. He urged residents not to let down their guard against any attempt to cause unrest.

“The threat to national security is real,” Lee said at a weekly press briefing. “Such activities can happen suddenly and different people can use different excuses to hide their intentions. »

Commemorative events have proliferated overseas in response to the silencing of voices in Hong Kong. Vigils were planned in Washington. DC, London, Brisbane and Taipei, among other cities this year, as well as a growing number of conferences, rallies, exhibitions and plays.

NPR News

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