HONG KONG - The world’s first museum dedicated to the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown wants to convince Chinese visitors to fight for democracy when it opens in Hong Kong next week, almost 25 years on, organisers said Friday.
The permanent exhibition, which is scheduled to open next Saturday, commemorates those killed in the authorities’ brutal crushing of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on June 3-4, 1989. All reference to the crackdown is banned on the mainland, where many remain unaware of it. The museum is funded by the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which also organises the annual June 4 candlelit vigil in Hong Kong attended by tens of thousands.
A lot of people have forgotten what has happened and mainlanders are not allowed to remember. So here, we preserve that memory and remind the people what has happened and also to drive the people to fight for democracy in China,’ the group’s chairman Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters.
‘By letting them remember and letting them know what actually happened, they will have anger towards the Communist Party - which in order preserve its power, went to the extent of shooting its own people. ‘This should not be tolerated by our mainland compatriots,’ he said. Organisers will use social media, including Weibo - China’s equivalent to Twitter - to promote the museum, Lee said.
The 800-square foot (74.32 square-metre) venue, in the commercial district of East Tsim Sha Tsui, will display images from the protests and subsequent crackdown, including the famous ‘Tank Man’ photograph of a civilian staring down a long row of military vehicles. It also includes a two-metre tall statue of the Goddess of Democracy, similar to one erected at Tiananmen Square during the protests almost 25 years ago. Owners of the commercial block that houses the museum have threatened to take legal action, saying that the museum may have violated the property deed and may cause nuisance to tenants, due to its highly political nature, according to media reports.
‘We have all the legal backup and we are confident we can face legal challenges and this museum will be open continuously,’ Lee said. Beijing has never provided an official final toll for the military crackdown, which was condemned worldwide. Independent observers tallied more than 1,000 dead in Beijing, without including victims elsewhere. The Chinese Communist Party branded the Tiananmen protests a ‘counter-revolutionary rebellion’ but pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong have consistently commemorated the incident.
Every year, tens of thousands of residents gather at the city’s Victoria Park to mark its anniversary. Since returning to Chinese rule in 1997, Hong Kong enjoys a level of civil liberty that is unavailable in China under the so-called ‘One Country Two Systems’, which guarantees the city’s semi-autonomous status.