The world’s first museum dedicated to China’s Tiananmen Square crackdown will once again open its doors in Hong Kong after a months-long closure as the city prepares to mark the 20th anniversary of its handover to Beijing.
The June 4th Museum closed its doors last July after organisers said they were being targeted for political reasons in the semi-autonomous city where concerns are growing that Beijing is tightening its grip.
Tenants in the commercial building which housed the museum from 2014 said the museum breached regulations that said the premises could only be used for offices.
The museum, now housed at a new temporary venue, will open to the public at a time when Hong Kong is revving up the fanfare for the 20th anniversary of its handover to China by Britain, with expectations of a high-profile visit by Chinese president Xi Jinping.
Organiser Lee Cheuk-yan told AFP this was an especially important time to reopen the museum.
“It’s very important that this museum will be here to tell him (Xi) in his face that people in Hong Kong have not forgotten what had happened 28 years ago when the Communist Party decided to open fire and send in tanks against the people’s aspiration for freedom,” Lee said.
Chinese authorities branded the pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” and many on the mainland remain unaware of the crackdown.
The cramped 100 square-metre (1,100 square-foot) space will be displaying newspaper clippings, large photographs and videos of tanks rolling down the streets of Beijing during the crackdown.
The exhibit, which also displays a two-metre tall statue of the Goddess of Democracy, opens from April 30 to June 15 in the city’s Shek Kip Mei residential region.
“It’s very much meaningful because… it counteracts against the brainwashing by the Communist party,” Lee said of the museum, which is still searching for a permanent home.
“They have the money and resources to really try to use excuses to suppress our museum, but I think we will fight on, and I think with the support of people in Hong Kong we can fight,” he said.
The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which runs the museum, is raising funds and hopes to find a permanent location for the displays within the next two years.
Residents told AFP it was important for Hong Kong to host the museum.
“Hong Kong is the only place in China that can act as a platform for people to comprehend this part of history,” said social worker Regan Suen, 33.
Beijing has never given an official death toll for the Tiananmen crackdown, which was condemned worldwide, but independent observers tallied more than 1,000 dead.
Hong Kong enjoys freedoms unseen on the mainland, enshrined in a deal made before Britain handed it back to China in 1997. But there are growing fears those freedoms are being eroded.