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Silence and heavy security in China and Hong Kong mark 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing’s Tiananmen Square had checkpoints and police vehicles Tuesday as China tried to silence the 35th anniversary of the bloody repression of pro-democracy demonstrations. Hong Kong police arrested four people and swarmed a handful of others who attempted to protest or commemorate as the effort spread beyond the continent.

China has long erased any public memory of the military crackdown on months-long protests in the heart of its capital. Around 180,000 soldiers and police arrived with tanks and armored vehicles and fired on the crowd trying to prevent them from advancing on the student-led protest in the square.

Hundreds, if not thousands, are believed to have been killed during a nighttime operation that ended on the morning of June 4, 1989.

It was a turning point in China’s modern history when the Communist Party’s hardliners embraced control over political reforms.

AP correspondent Charles de Ledesma reports that Hong Kong remains calm with a heavy police presence on the 35th anniversary of Tiananmen.

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

Throughout China, this anniversary remains a taboo and heavily censored subject. Any mention on social networks is quickly deleted.

Life seemed normal in Beijing on Tuesday, with tourists lining the streets leading to the gates of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace opposite. The nearest subway exit was closed, as was a viewpoint at the top of the Tiananmen Gate, according to a visitor registration website.

“Regarding the political turmoil that occurred in the late 1980s, the Chinese government has long had a clear conclusion,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mao Ning said, without elaborating. Asked about Western governments’ statements on the anniversary, she added: “We are firmly opposed to anyone using this as a pretext to attack and defame China and interfere in China’s internal affairs.” »

The Mothers of Tiananmen, a group formed by the families of the victims, launched an online appeal to the Chinese government to publish the names and total number of those who died, provide compensation to the victims and their relatives, and initiate the legal responsibility of 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. A carnival organized by pro-Beijing groups was held Tuesday in a park that for decades was the site of a huge candlelight vigil marking the anniversary.

The police were present in force.

A woman who wore a T-shirt with the numbers 8964 in Roman numerals was stopped by police, and an older man was arrested after holding up two handwritten posters. One read: “Remember the 89! Cry 64! » Hong Kong media said that activist Alexandra Wongpopularly known as “Grandma Wong”, was also removed after chanting slogans.

An AP reporter saw another woman being taken away after being searched.

“It’s different from the past,” said Keith Law, a Hong Kong resident. “A lot of people seem to act as if nothing happened, including me.”

As night fell, a person who had lit a candle and two others who had turned on their smartphone light were quickly cordoned off by police and questioned outside the park. They were eventually released.

“My heart is not dead yet,” said one of them, Edward Yeung, a former vigil attendee.

Police said Tuesday evening they arrested four people aged 23 to 69. Among them was a 68-year-old woman arrested on suspicion of sedition under the law. the city’s new national security law. Police said she chanted slogans in public. Local newspapers reported it was Wong, citing unidentified sources.

Two other people were charged with assaulting police officers and disturbing the peace in a public place. The final suspect was arrested for simple assault. The police did not identify them.

Authorities also said five other people suspected of “disturbing public order” were arrested for further investigation, but all were later released.

Rows of electronic candles illuminated the dozens of windows of the American consulate, and the British consulate posted on the social network June 4. Hong Kong is a former British colony.

Some Hong Kong residents remembered the event privately, running 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) on Monday or sharing Tiananmen-related content on social media.

Hong Kong leader John Lee did not respond directly when asked Tuesday whether residents could still publicly mourn the crackdown.

“The threat to national security is real,” Lee said.

Commemorative events have multiplied abroad in response to the silence of voices in Hong Kong.

More than 100 people, including U.S. lawmakers and former Tiananmen movement student leaders, gathered in Washington to light candles at the foot of a replica of the “Goddess of Democracy”, a statue of a woman holding a torch erected in the square during the 1989 demonstration.

“What has happened in China under these circumstances over the last 35 years has not been positive in terms of global democracy, in terms of human rights, in terms of the promotion of democratic freedoms,” said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House of Representatives and longtime congresswoman. supporter of the Chinese pro-democracy movement.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that the United States stands in solidarity with those who continue the fight for human rights and freedoms, adding that the sacrifice of protesters 35 years ago will not be not forgotten.

In London, around 300 people outside the Chinese embassy remembered the dead by turning on their cellphone flashlights instead of candles. Some protesters read a long list of names of people who died in the crackdown, while others chanted “free China” and “free Hong Kong.”

In Taiwan, a self-governing democratic island that China claims as its territory, people laid flowers and placed electronic candles over the numbers 8964 – representing June 4, 1989 – on a banner unfurled on the ground in Taipei, the capital.

“As long as other places can still protest, we must continue to protest,” said resident Leo Chiang.

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Leung reported from Hong Kong. Associated Press journalists Emily Wang Fujiyama in Beijing; Johnson Lai in Taipei, Taiwan; and Didi Tang in Washington, DC, contributed.

News Source : apnews.com
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