Protests held amid crackdown on commemoration of anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre

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Protesters participate in a silent prayer during a rally to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square near the Shinjuku station in Tokyo. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

June 4 (UPI) — Demonstrators gathered Saturday in Japan to protest China’s crackdown on events marking the anniversary of the June 4, 1989, massacre of pro-democracy activists in Tiananmen Square.

Activists outside the Chinese Embassy in Tokyo and other places across Japan called for everyone to never forget Tiananmen Square, South Asia news agency ANI reported.

The protesters also called out Beijing’s various human rights violations and other violations of international law, including genocide in Xinjiang, suppression of the native language in Inner Mongolia, cultural genocide in Tibet and crackdown on freedom of speech in Hong Kong.

Japanese citizens, Tibetans, Uyghurs, Mongolians and others joined the protest in solidarity with activists in Hong Kong, where protests have been disrupted in recent years with authorities citing concerns about the spread of COVID-19. Many Hong Kong citizens believe that was an excuse to quell public dissent after pro-democracy protests in 2019.

A year after the 2019 protests, Beijing expanded its control of the quasi-autonomous city in China’s special administrative region through a national security law, which critics said suppressed freedom of speech. Also, in 2020, regional authorities began to ban Hong Kong’s annual commemoration of Tiananmen Square, which used to be the largest one worldwide.

This year, a small number of individuals attempted to commemorate the massacre at Victoria Park in Hong Kong despite a heavy police presence to prevent “unauthorized assemblies” and the park being cordoned off, the Financial Times reported.

Some protesters held up candles and cellphone lights, saying they wanted to “keep the memory alive,” but the commemorations in Hong Kong were largely stifled, according to the Financial Times.

Hong Kong residents were among the first to offer support to student protesters in China after Beijing sent troops armed with rifles and accompanied by tanks to forcibly clear the square of student protesters in the early hours of June 4, 1989.

The death toll in the Tiananmen Square massacre was at least 10,000 people, according to British diplomatic cables sent at the time of the uprising that were unsealed in 2017.

Many more were injured, and it’s been estimated as many as 10,000 were arrested during and after the 1989 protest, according to CNN.

Last year, more than 3,000 riot police were on standby to prevent commemorations of the 1989 massacre.

In December, businessman and pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai was sentenced to more than a year in prison for participating in a banned candlelight vigil the prior year to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre, and seven others were also convicted for involvement in the vigil.

Also, in December, University of Hong Kong officials removed a 26-foot statue, Jens Galschiot’s Pillar of Shame, housed on its campus in mourning of those killed in the 1989 massacre.

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