Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square Museum forced to close two days before the memorial memorial

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Hong Kong (CNN) – Hong Kongessentially the most controversial vacation spot was pressured to shut simply two days earlier than an enormous one vital date within the pro-democracy world calendar.
Housed in an nameless skyscraper wedged between a fuel station and a freeway overpass in Kowloon, the June Four Museum is the one museum in Higher China – which incorporates the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan – that commemorates the crackdown on the Beijing authorities in opposition to scholar protesters in Tiananmen square in 1989.

On June 1, Hong Kong officers from the Division of Meals and Environmental Hygiene (FEHD) visited the museum within the working-class space of ​​Mong Kok and accused the organizers of illegally working a “public efficiency venue”.

“Our division just lately acquired a criticism that somebody in a unit in a industrial constructing on Mong Kok Highway operated an leisure venue with out the required license,” FEHD advised CNN in a press release.

They added that this license is required for all firms that “entertain folks” no matter whether or not they cost cash as an entry price. The museum was free to go to.

Some supporters left flowers exterior the museum’s closed door earlier than June 4th.

Courtesy of June 4th Museum / Twitter

The timing was shocking, the following few days earlier than the June 4th anniversary, when tens of hundreds of Hong Kongers they often collect in Victoria Park to recollect the individuals who died within the repression.

The vigil was canceled final 12 months because of the coronavirus outbreak, and on Saturday a courtroom sided with the police resolution to cancel the occasion once more this 12 months, for a similar purpose.

The following day, the organizers of the June Four Museum, the Hong Kong Alliance in Help of Patriotic Democratic Actions of China (often merely referred to as The Hong Kong Alliance), invited prospects to position flowers on the museum to rejoice the day.

It was a dangerous transfer in a metropolis now topic to National Security Act (NSL). Set by Beijing final June, it offers the authorities broad powers to detain folks accused of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with international powers.

The president of the museum, Lee Cheuk-yan, has seen issues coming. In March, he gave CNN a tour of the museum and predicted that NSL might quickly shut it down for good.

“(NSL) is all the time like a knife hanging round your neck,” Lee stated. “We do not know when it can deliver us down.”

The facility of objects

This 12 months, Lee will spend June Four behind bars. In April, he was sentenced to 18 months in jail for organizing and taking part in unauthorized authorities protests in 2019. He faces additional expenses for different actions.

Earlier than being convicted, Lee met with CNN after a protracted day in West Kowloon Excessive Courtroom. He was in excessive spirits, regardless of the looming menace of a jail sentence.

He guided CNN by a few of his favourite items on show. Many have been donated to the museum by the Tiananmen Moms, a bunch of Chinese language activists made up of fogeys and family members of these killed through the June Four protests.

Essentially the most transferring items are private ones: a Peking College T-shirt signed by activists, a bullet extracted from the leg of a commerce unionist, a digital camera owned by a scholar who was shot whereas taking photos of the day’s occasions and pictures of him. similar scholar dad and mom had developed sequelae.

Statues of the Goddess of Democracy seen on display at the museum.

The collectible figurines of the Goddess of Democracy, a statue created after which destroyed through the Tiananmen Sq. protests, are on sale on the Museum on June 4.

Chan Lengthy Hei / SOPA Photos / LightRocket / Getty Photos

“The museum is barely a part of our work,” defined Lee. He is aware of that the actions do not occur in a single day, regardless of the identify of the museum. “We try to prepare exercise occasions within the first place across the commemoration of June 4. Then, yearly the commemoration vigil of June Four and likewise the previous march. Along with the commemoration of June 4, we now have additionally supported a marketing campaign for the discharge of the dissidents inside China. “

Only a few, if any, vigils this 12 months as a consequence of restrictions imposed to cease the unfold of the coronavirus. Hong Kong police made this clear in a tweet on May 29 that disobeying the principles wouldn’t be tolerated: “Regulation prohibiting gatherings of 4+ ppl nonetheless in drive. The general public should NOT take part / promote / promote unauthorized gatherings!”

In response, the Hong Kong Alliance launched a press release on Twitter confirming that it was pressured to cancel the vigil. Nevertheless, he added, “regardless of this, the alliance continues to consider that regardless of how a lot the regime engages in oppression, the candlelight won’t ever go away so long as folks keep in mind.”

The Museum’s spring exhibit on June Four was about how a lot the occasions on Tiananmen Sq. mirror the protests of current years in Hong Kong. Each actions have been led by younger folks and sought to push again the ruling Chinese language Communist Social gathering and media censorship.

A number of the more moderen artifacts within the museum’s assortment come from the 2014 yellow umbrella motion and the more moderen protests in Hong Kong. They embody renderings of Pepe the Frog, a right-wing on-line meme that has been subverted and adopted by the anti-Beijing camp in recent times, and protecting clothes worn by the scholars who organized an attempted acquisition of Hong Kong Polytechnic University in 2019.

Lee says some museum visitors simply wish to be alone with their ideas. Others query or defend China’s actions.

The person behind the mission

Lee was born in Shanghai in 1957 to a household whose roots are in Guangdong province, on the border with Hong Kong. He moved to Hong Kong as a younger man whereas the town was nonetheless a British colony, first to attend college, then to work as a commerce union activist.

The Hong Kong Alliance was based in 1989, galvanized by the June 4th motion. Therefore, the group’s primary concern was looking forward to Hong Kong’s 1997 transition from the British to the Chinese language and the way that will have an effect on the town’s life and politics.

“At the moment, the folks of Hong Kong have been very mobilized and moved by the scholars in China,” he explains of the burgeoning pro-democracy actions happening on the mainland on the time. “Personally, I used to be clearly very completely happy that the folks in China began preventing for democracy. If there may be democracy in China, then there may be definitely democracy in Hong Kong.”

The Hong Kong Alliance is commonly labeled as anti-Chinese language, which Lee does not like. Regardless of spending most of his grownup life in Hong Kong, he considers himself very Chinese language, commonly mentioning how a lot he loves China and is happy with his heritage.

What the alliance desires is just not the top of China. Its acknowledged objective is the top of the one-party authorities of the Chinese language Communist Social gathering (CCP) and the opening up of the nation to completely different factors of view and political events.

The June 4, 1989 protests have been a part of a motion that had grown throughout China and demanded precisely that. The culminating occasions in Tiananmen Sq. started on April 15, after the sudden loss of life of Hu Yaobang, a former chief of the reformist CCP who had been ousted a number of years earlier. When Hu died, a bunch of individuals, principally college college students of Peking College, gathered in Tiananmen Sq. within the coronary heart of Beijing to mourn him publicly. That mourning became a cry for motion as protesters pushed for presidency reform and a transfer to democracy.

Visitors look at artifacts recovered from the scene of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown on display at the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on June 4, 2019.

Guests peruse the artifacts on show on the Museum on June 4th.

Isaac Lawrence / AFP / Getty Photos

The one-day motion became weeks, with some college students happening starvation strike. Extra folks poured into the sq. and the group acquired larger and louder.

The phrase “Tiananmen” means “Gate of Heavenly Peace” in Mandarin. As the group grew, the Chinese language army marched into the sq. on June 4, arresting and killing lots of the activists.

At this time, the dialogue of these occasions stays taboo in mainland China. The June 4th Museum in Hong Kong was important for individuals who do not forget that day in Higher China and past.

Vacationers from everywhere in the world have visited it, leaving post-its with messages in several languages ​​to create a Lennon Wall like those which have sprung up round Hong Kong in help of the town’s latest democratic motion. A few of these, like that of the College of Hong Kong, are nonetheless lively, however others have been eliminated by the police.

Regardless of the nice needs from Australia, Finland, Japan and others, a number of the most touching messages have been these from Chinese language guests.

“I requested a man from Beijing, ‘How have you learnt about our museum?'” Lee recalled asking a visitor from the mainland. “He stated, ‘After all I find out about you and the museum, I used to be the one who censored it. I wrote your tackle once I’m censoring your museum.’ After which he came visiting our museum “.

What occurs subsequent

Lee is in jail, nonetheless capable of talk with the Hong Kong Alliance and ship messages to his supporters by his lawyer. His solely son has moved overseas, maybe completely.

The Hong Kong Alliance fears that if the museum is pressured to shut completely, the federal government might seize its property, so they’re working to digitize the whole assortment in each English and Chinese language.

“The promised democracy by no means materialized,” Lee stated, referring to the “One nation, two techniques” components promised by Beijing to permit the town to take care of a excessive diploma of autonomy till 2047, together with the introduction of common suffrage. .

June 4 Hong Kong Lights Museum

Hong Kong Alliance members deliver lights to exchange candles typically displayed on June 4th.

Courtesy of June 4th Museum / Twitter

However the passage of the Nationwide Safety Act almost dashed this hope.

On April 16, Lee greeted a crowd of supporters exterior the courthouse as he ready to start his jail sentence. Wearing a sensible buttoned shirt, he additionally wore the obligatory surgical masks in public in Hong Kong to guard himself from the coronavirus.

Shortly earlier than being accompanied to the van from jail, the activist referred to an English-language music by the duo Rogers & Hammerstein that was adopted by the pro-democracy motion.

“I wish to dedicate the music ‘You may By no means Stroll Alone’ to the folks of Hong Kong. We are going to stroll collectively even in the dead of night with hope in our hearts”, He stated.

Lee’s subsequent public look can be on June 11, when he can be tried on three additional expenses of “inciting, organizing and taking part in an unauthorized meeting”.

This 12 months, unable to depart his cell, Lee will go on a one-day starvation strike in jail as his private tribute to June 4th.

CNN’s Jadyn Sham contributed to the report.

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