Hong Kong Shuts Down Tiananmen Massacre Museum Prior to Anniversary

Artefacts recovered from the scene of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, including bullets, are displayed at the June 4 Museum in Hong Kong on April 26, 2019. - The museum, which opened at its new location in the Kowloon district in Hong Kong on April 26, is a permanent museum …
VIVEK PRAKASH/AFP via Getty

Hong Kong’s June 4 Museum – whose exhibits preserve the memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, despite the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) efforts to erase it from history – announced on Wednesday it must temporarily close due to a licensing investigation.

According to museum officials, Hong Kong’s Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) turned up at the building on Tuesday and declared it did not have the necessary license for running a public entertainment venue.

The June 4 Museum was established in 2012 by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which has also organized massive candlelight vigils and marches to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre for the past three decades. Alliance spokesman Richard Tsoi told reporters on Monday that the museum has never before been asked for the license that FEHD is now demanding.

“It’s been ten years we’ve had similar exhibitions here. We won’t rule out a political motivation,” Tsoi said. 

The South China Morning Post (SCMP) recalled that in 2010, the Hong Kong Alliance put two large artworks commemorating the Tiananmen massacre on public display. The FEHD accused them of organizing the display without proper licenses, and the artworks were confiscated by the police, who also arrested 13 members of the alliance. 

The June 4 Museum was opened about two years later and operated without incident until it was recently closed for renovations, reopening just three days ago. Tsoi said the museum received over 550 visitors during that three-day period.

The 32nd anniversary of Tiananmen Square was only two days away when Hong Kong’s Beijing-controlled government moved against the museum. 

Hong Kong officially banned Tiananmen Square vigils for the second year in a row last week – at first with flimsy excuses about coronavirus safety, but later with more nakedly authoritarian assertions that commemorating the Tiananmen massacre is a violation of the tyrannical “national security” law China imposed on Hong Kong last summer.

Skeptics of the Hong Kong government’s motives noted that the Chinese Communist Party is getting ready for its gala 100th anniversary celebration in July, so June 4 commemorations of the Party’s hideous slaughter of dissidents in 1989 are particularly uncomfortable this year, and the pandemic has given authoritarian regimes around the world an excuse to crack down on everything that makes them uncomfortable.

“Facing the difficulties of the current political landscape, the Alliance still believes that Hong Kongers’ sentiments to never forget June 4 will not disappear,” the Hong Kong Alliance said in its statement on Wednesday. “We hope Hong Kongers will use their wisdom, agility and persistence to mourn for June 4th in their own ways, at an appropriate time and location, and under legal, safe, peaceful and rational circumstances.”

The Alliance said it was shutting the museum down to protect its staff and visitors from legal repercussions while it consulted with its lawyers.

“The government was simply afraid citizens will always remember the crackdown. I don’t think that the museum will be given a license even if they apply for one. The licensing requirement is just an excuse to shut it down,” a disappointed visitor to the shuttered June 4 Museum said more bluntly to the SCMP.

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