35th Tiananmen Anniversary Commemorated Around the World

While the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre was massively censored within mainland China and Hong Kong, people elsewhere around the world made tributes in order to highlight the incident and reflect on its significance in the present era. The Hongkonger compiled an inexhaustive list of commemorative events that took place in 18 cities across four continents. The Hong Kong Free Press reported on commemorations in Canada and the U.K., among other countries:

On June 4, over 300 people joined an assembly in front of the Chinese Embassy in Britain to share and hear memories of the crackdown that took place 35 years ago, international media reported.

[…] Another assembly was also hosted in London’s Parliament Square on Sunday, two days prior to the anniversary, overseas media outlets reported. Several groups collaborated to organise the assembly, including Amnesty International, Hong Kong Labour Rights Monitor – a group founded by Hongkongers in the UK – and China Deviant, a group established by overseas Chinese youth following China’s Covid-19 protests.

[…] Vancouver’s David Lam Park was the site of a gathering on Tuesday, where attendees called for human rights to be safeguarded and to prevent the infiltration of the Chinese Communist Party. According to online photos, hundreds of people held up candles. The Collective reported that those present did so to mourn the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

[…] On Sunday, around 2,000 people gathered in the Mel Lastman Square in the North York district of Toronto to commemorate the crackdown, according to the event’s organiser. Reverend Chu Yiu-ming, a Hong Kong democrat who now lives in Taiwan, flew to Toronto to attend the assembly. [Source]

Brian Hioe from New Bloom Magazine reported on the commemorations in Taipei, Taiwan:

Demonstrators Gathered in Liberty Plaza in Taipei tonight to commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. According to organizers, by around 7:30 PM, there were 2,000 participants in the demonstration.

A number of tents were set up for NGOs and civil society organizations to set up stalls. This included many of the stalwarts of Taiwanese civil society, such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Covenants Watch, Taiwan Labour Front, and the Green Citizens’ Action Alliance. Likewise, a range of Hong Kong organizations in Taiwan were present, such as the Taiwan Hong Kong Association, Hong Kong Outlanders, New School for Democracy, and other groups. Indeed, one of the event’s two MCs was Hong Kong artist Kacey Wong, who has been based in Taiwan since July 2021, given the crackdown on political freedoms there. As such, the proceedings of the event were conducted in Mandarin and Cantonese.

Several installations were set up. This included a 3D printed replica of the Pillar of Shame, the sculpture made by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1997. The numbers 8964 were spelled out with electronic candles next to the Pillar of Shame and again in a tent with photos of the Tiananmen Square protests. Furthermore, video artwork and performance art took place. This included Kacey Wong showing a video art on memorializing those lost in the killings and riding a bicycle with pro-democracy slogans on a banner around the rally. A noise performance also took place, referencing not only the recent Bluebird Movement protests, self-immolation by Tibetans, the 324 crackdown against the attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan that took place during the Sunflower Movement, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. [Source]

Discussing the relevance of the Tiananmen Massacre, newly elected Taiwanese President William Lai Ching-te stated, “Any political power should bravely face the voices of the people, especially the young generation, because social change often relies on diverse opinions,” adding, “We must use democracy to build consensus, respond to autocracy with freedom, face authoritarian expansion with courage, and face challenges with unity.” Global Voices spoke to some attendees of the Taipei vigil including Loretta Lau, an artist from Hong Kong, who stated that participating in commemorative events such as this one is important for all Sinophone groups battling forms of oppression:

To best preserve the memory of the Tiananmen tragedy for future generations among all Sinophone communities, including those in exile and overseas, we must wholeheartedly support Taiwan’s democracy.

[…] For many of us, participating in this event is incredibly important. Our art and voices, which can no longer be seen or heard in Hong Kong, found a platform here. Some Hongkongers, despite living just a two-hour flight away, managed to participate last night. This means so much to the Hong Kong diaspora. Making real, personal connections with people still in Hong Kong is invaluable. It shows that even under brutal regimes, people care and remember, even if they can’t openly raise their voices. By supporting Taiwan’s democracy and fostering these connections, we ensure that the memory of the Tiananmen tragedy lives on and that the voices of the oppressed are heard. [Source]

The Japanese parliament held a ceremony on Monday to commemorate the anniversary. “It is important to hold such a gathering in the Japanese Diet, when it’s impossible to have one in mainland China or Hong Kong,” Wang Jinzhong, a Tokyo-based journalist who hosted the event, told Nikkei Asia. Patrick Poon, a visiting researcher at the University of Tokyo, emphasized the significance of holding the gathering at the parliament complex, saying “it really has an impact” and is “not just symbolic.”

A small gathering to commemorate the anniversary took place in Paris, France, as well:

Members of U.S. Congress also gave speeches outside the Capitol to mark the anniversary. The House of Representatives invited Chinese researchers, student activists, and leaders from the 1989 Tiananmen movement and 2022 White Paper protests to testify at a hearing on the subject. Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader who was invited to testify, said the Tiananmen crackdown is once again resonating today: “Be it the Western society, the general public or China’s younger people, they have shown unprecedented interest. […] Especially after the pandemic, many people have realized all is nothing without freedom.”

Kanis Leung and Tian Macleod Ji from the Associated Press described how overseas communities carry the torch to keep memories of Tiananmen alive:

As Beijing’s toughened political stance effectively extinguished any large-scale commemorations within its borders, overseas commemorative events have grown increasingly crucial for preserving memories of the Tiananmen crackdown. Over the past few years, a growing number of talks, rallies, exhibitions and plays on the subject have emerged in the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and Taiwan.

[…] Aline Sierp, a professor of European history and memory studies at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, said overseas commemorative activities allow the memories to travel and endure, providing access for other people and future generations.

But she said it can be “a double-edged sword” because adapting the memories to new places might risk fragmenting or de-contextualizing them in the future.

Alison Landsberg, a memory studies scholar at George Mason University in Virginia, said that overseas efforts carry the potential to inspire people from other places who are facing their own challenges in the pursuit of democracy.

[…] “It shows that how much sufferings that people had to endure all these years,” [Rowena He said about the play “May 35th” that was performed in London]. “If there’s anything we can do, I hope that we would bring the younger generation to understand this.” [Source]

Violet Law from Al Jazeera highlighted the role of New York City’s Tiananmen museum in preserving memories

The June 4th Memorial Museum opened a year ago through concerted efforts by Zhou [Fengsuo] and a few other veterans of the Tiananmen demonstrations now living in the United States. The urgency for a new museum came after the one in Hong Kong was closed down by the authorities there in 2021.

“We viewed this as the effort to erase the memories,” David Dahai Yu, the museum’s director, told Al Jazeera. “We want people to understand why [Tiananmen] happened and what it means…to tell the story.”

[…] Soon after Zhou and others spread the word on their new museum in the heart of Manhattan’s shopping district, they started receiving unexpected items: the blood-splattered blouse of a reporter who worked for the People’s Liberation Army newspaper; the leaflets distributed by Zhou; a medal and commemorative watch awarded to “the defenders of the motherland”, as Beijing dubbed the soldiers who suppressed the movement.

There was even a like-new Nikko tent, one of the hundreds ferried in from Hong Kong and kept as a memento by a pair of protesters who camped in the square as newlyweds. [Source]

China-focused media outlets also published Tiananmen-related retrospectives. China Media Project’s Lingua Sinica newsletter shared two pieces from their archives that underscore the relevance of media and speech freedoms in China. ChinaFile published a retrospective highlight reel of its work on the Tiananmen protests and crackdown. China Heritage published a two-part commemoration by highlighting pieces from Dai Qing, a Chinese reporter, novelist, and historical investigative journalist. Article 19 hosted a podcast episode for the occasion titled “The Legacy of Tiananmen Square: 35 Years of Silence and Censorship.” The Tibet Action Institute shared a podcast episode titled, “The Untold Story of Tibetan Students in the 1989 Tiananmen Movement.”


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