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

BEIJING (AP) — Checkpoints and lines of police vehicles lined a major road leading to Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Tuesday as China stepped up security on the 35th anniversary of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests.

China has long since quashed any memory of the killings when the Chinese government ordered the military to end months of protests and uphold communist rule. An estimated 180,000 troops and armed police moved in with tanks and armored vehicles and fired into the crowds as they advanced toward Tiananmen Square.

The death toll remains unknown to this day. Hundreds, if not thousands, are believed to have died in an operation that began the night before and ended on the morning of June 4, 1989.

The crackdown became a turning point in modern Chinese history, ending a crisis in favor of Communist Party hardliners, who advocated control rather than political reform.

The economy boomed in the following decades, turning a once impoverished country into the world’s second-largest economy. But social control has tightened since party leader Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

Across China, the event remains a sensitive and taboo subject that is heavily censored, with any mention or reference on social media erased.

It was just another day in the Chinese capital, with hundreds of tourists lining the streets leading to the gates leading to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the former imperial palace that faces the north side of the square. Those who have lost family members in the crackdown are generally not allowed to gather or mourn in public.

Asked by a foreign journalist to comment on the 35th anniversary during a daily Foreign Ministry briefing on Monday, spokesman Mao Ning shrugged off the event.

“The Chinese government has long ago come to a clear conclusion about the political unrest that took place in the late 1980s,” she said, without elaborating.

Tiananmen Mothers, a group formed by families of the victims, has called online for the Chinese government to publish the names and numbers of those who died, provide compensation to the victims and their relatives and hold legal responsibility for those responsible pursue.

“The June 4 tragedy is a historic tragedy that the Chinese government must face and explain to its people, and some people in the government at the time should be held legally responsible for the arbitrary killing of innocents,” the group said in a statement. a signed letter. by 114 family members and published on the website, which is blocked in China.

Tiananmen memorials have also been scrapped 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 to mark the anniversary.

Police used a new national security law last week to arrest eight people over social media posts commemorating the crackdown, including Chow Hang-tung, a former organizer of the vigil. Several pro-democracy activists told The Associated Press that police had inquired about their plans for Tuesday.

Officers were at Causeway Bay, a bustling shopping area near the park where the vigil was held. The police briefly arrested a performance artist in the same neighborhood the night before.

Some Hong Kong residents privately remembered the event, walking 6.4 kilometers (4 miles) on Monday – a reference to the June 4 date – and sharing Tiananmen-related content on social media. The British Consulate posted a photo on the social media platform

An independent bookstore, which had “35/5” on its window – a reference to the May 35 date of the crackdown – wrote on Instagram that police officers were stationed outside the store for an hour on Sunday, during which they captured the events recordings. customer identity information.

Hong Kong leader John Lee did not immediately answer Tuesday when asked whether residents could still publicly mourn the crackdown. He urged residents not to be wary of attempts to cause trouble.

“The threat to national security is real,” Lee said at a weekly briefing. “Such activities can happen suddenly and different people can use different excuses to hide their intentions.”

Commemorative events have increased abroad in response to the silencing of voices in Hong Kong. Vigils were planned in Washington. This year this includes DC, London, Brisbane and Taipei, as well as a growing number of lectures, meetings, exhibitions and plays.

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Leung reported from Hong Kong. Associated Press journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama from Beijing contributed.

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