China’s Tiananmen victims won’t be forgotten, US says

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The efforts of the victims of China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square 33 years ago will not be forgotten, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, as Hong Kong warned against unlawful gatherings.

Saturday marks the anniversary of Chinese troops opening fire to end the student-led unrest in and around the square in central Beijing. Chinese authorities ban any public commemoration of the event on the mainland, and the Hong Kong authorities have clamped down.

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In a statement on Saturday Asia time, Blinken termed the crackdown “a brutal assault”.

“The efforts of these brave individuals will not be forgotten. Each year, we honour and remember those who stood up for human rights and fundamental freedoms,” he said.

“While many are no longer able to speak up themselves, we and many around the world continue to stand up on their behalf and support their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and the rights of individuals,” Blinken said.

“To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, at a routine news conference on Thursday, reiterated Beijing's line on the events. “The Chinese government has long ago come to a clear conclusion about the political incident that happened in late 1980s,” he said.

Hong Kong on Saturday deployed heavy security near Victoria Park, where people had come together for an annual vigil before the pandemic hit, as authorities blocked off main parts of the venue and warned people against illegal gatherings.

The city's leader, Carrie Lam, said this week that any events to commemorate those killed in the 1989 crackdown would be subject to national security laws.

China imposed a tough national security law on Hong Kong in June 2020 punishing acts of subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

The government has banned the annual vigil since 2020, citing coronavirus restrictions. Some democracy campaigners accuse authorities of using those rules to suppress activism, which officials reject.

Current COVID-19 restrictions allow up to eight people to dine together, though gatherings outside are capped at four people.

Last year, police blocked off the Hong Kong park to prevent people gathering to commemorate the anniversary and arrested the planned vigil's oorganizer.

Activists plan to gather on Saturday in democratically ruled Taiwan's capital, Taipei, to commemorate the anniversary.

Taiwan's China-policy making Mainland Affairs Council called on Friday on Beijing “to address the historical facts of the Tiananmen Square Incident with sincerity, embark on political reforms (and) implement democratic governance”.

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