It's still only May (with the unseasonably cool weather making it feel more like April) but, already, thoughts have turned to June 4th. This is thanks in part to a collaboration involving the Hong Kong Committee in Norway, Amnesty International Norway and Oslo Freedom Forum leading to the unveiling yesterday of a new "Pillar of Shame" in the courtyard of the University of Oslo’s Law faculty.
For the record: the one that stood for decades at the University of Hong Kong was dismantled and is still hidden from view in a Hong Kong location; so the one erected yeterday is Norway is actually "just" a replica. Nonetheless, the sense is that this new Pillar of Shame will help to shine a light on the events of June 4th, 1989, in Beijing -- but, also, what's been happening in/to Hong Kong in recent years, including the efforts on the part of the authorities to extend the People's Republic of Amnesia to Hong Kong from Mainland China.
Speaking of the latter: the removal of sculptures, statues and other physical reminders of the Tiananmen Square Massacre have not satisfied the powers that be. They've also imprisoned people who have expressed their determination to remember what happened on June 4th, 1989, like lawyer-activist Chow Hang-tung -- the subject of a Wall Street Journal article just yesterday (go here to go behind its paywall) that pointed out, among other things, that: "Ms. Chow is serving two prison terms, totaling 22 months, for attending and inciting others to go to Tiananmen memorial vigils in 2020 and 2021, after city authorities banned the memorials citing pandemic restrictions. She is awaiting trial on a national security charge, for which she faces up to 10 years in jail, related to her work with the group that organized the annual commemoration."
Also from that article: "As the window for speaking out on the Tiananmen massacre is closing in Hong Kong, Ms. Chow has said that her will wouldn’t be broken by punishment. “You can even force me to shut up, but you can’t force me to utter what I do not believe,” she wrote from detention."
Speaking of Hong Kongers who the authorities are finding difficult to shut up: After attending court for the first time as a defendant on Tuesday, Cardinal Zen proceeded to host a mass to pray for Chinese churchest in the evening. At the service attended by hundreds of Hong Kongers, the 90-year-old Cardinal also "dedicated prayers to churches in Myanmar led by Cardinal Bo, his most outspoken supporter in Asia, as well as “brothers and sisters who cannot join tonight because they are not free”". And he also criticized the Vatican once again for an "unwise" deal it had made with the Chinese regime back in 2018 that is due for renewal in September.
Fellow Catholic Chris Patten also touched on the wrongs wrought by the Vatican when it comes to China, including Hong Kong, in a recent piece entitled China's Cardinal Sins in Hong Kong, and noted that "Cardinal Zen’s real crime [in the eyes of the authorities in Hong Kong] is not only his regular defenses of religious freedom in China... but also his criticism of the #Vatican’s secret deals with the Chinese leadership"; deals that have tightened the Chinese Communist Party's grip on the Catholic Church in China, and now also Hong Kong.
Returning to the issue of the commemoration of June 4th: The Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office will not hold masses to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown this year, citing fears over the Beijing-imposed national security law. Masses have traditionally been held on the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown at several of Hong Kong's Catholic churches but, sadly, it looks like the tradition may well have come to an end.
Another traditional June 4th event that will not be taking place this year is the once annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. From a Radio Free Asia article from yesterday: "The vigil has been banned -- ostensibly for public health reasons -- for the past two years and the leaders of its organizing group, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, arrested for colluding with foreign powers under a national security law imposed by Beijing from July 1, 2020." And this year, "The Ming Pao newspaper reported that the Leisure and Cultural Service Department (LCSD), which administers the Victoria Park soccer pitches where the rally used to take place, has suspended any bookings on June 4, the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen [Square] massacre, although bookings are available on other days in the same month."
But while there may be no public events commemorating the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Hong Kong, don't think that people in Hong Kong will not be thinking about what happened on June 4th, 1989, on June 4th, 2022. In the same Radio Free Asia article, "You Weijie, spokeswoman for the Tiananmen Mothers victims' group said it was a shame that the event couldn't go ahead in Hong Kong, but said people wouldn't forget the date, nor the three decades of vigils that had already happened. "The candlelight vigil in Victoria Park went on for more than 30 years, and is deeply rooted in the memories of everyone with a conscience," You told RFA. "It's part of the desire to live a free life.""