Hong Kong gets its first museum dedicated to Tiananmen Square
The now well-known events of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square didn't just send a shock wave through Beijing.
The reverberations were felt across all of China, not least in Hong Kong, which, at the time, was less than a decade away from the transfer of sovereignty from the United Kingdom to China.
Hong Kongers felt their own unique unease watching the tragic sequence of student-led protests unfolding around the square.
Now, almost a quarter-century later, the first museum dedicated to the historic episode has been set up in Hong Kong.
The June 4 Memorial Museum is a temporary exhibit in Sham Shui Po set up by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. It will remain open until June 10.
Details of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident are on display in a walk-up building.
The simple room exhibits a timeline of events, an interactive corner and books on the subject that are banned in mainland China.
Many mainland visitors
"Many of our visitors look like your average mainland tourist," says the museum's volunteer guide Ashley Chau. "After speaking with them, I find they each have a personal connection to the incident."
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Chau spoke to "an old granny from the mainland" who was studying a photo of the famous 1989 editorial from party mouthpiece People's Daily. Titled, "It is necessary to take a clear-cut stand against disturbances,” the article helped fan the flames of anti-state sentiment among the student protestors.
The woman turned out to be one of the staff editors at People's Daily during the publication of the article.
"These tourists are often witnesses and what they share with me is always shocking," says Chau.
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An interactive table in one corner of the museum shows a map of the Chinese army's movements around Tiananmen Square on the eve of June 4. A bold red line traces tank movements and death tolls at each intersection of Beijing's main throughway, Chang'an Avenue.
Hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed during the protests.
"You can't count the bodies if they were squashed by tanks, right?" says Chau, explaining her take on the challenge of an accurate accounting of deaths.
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In her early twenties, Chau was not yet born when the Tiananmen Square protests and subsequent government crackdown attracted global attention.
The Guangdong native moved to Hong Kong when she was seven years old. She was not taught the history of the incident in school and learned about the details only by talking to people at Hong Kong's annual candlelight vigil commemorating the June 4 incident.
"I am so curious," she says. "There are different sides to the story and there is no one good source of information."
Remembering the victims
This year's candlelight vigil will begin at 8 p.m. on June 4 at Victoria Park football fields.
A seminar titled, “A Preview of the CCP’s Changes in Leadership: Favorable to Rehabilitating June 4?” will be held before the vigil at 4 p.m. Find details on the Alliance website.
Alliance chairman and Legco member Lee Cheuk-yan estimates participant numbers will exceed last year's 150,000. He believes many of those in attendance will be visitors from mainland China.
Lee says that around 6,000 people have visited the June 4 Memorial Museum since it opened on April 29.
About a fifth of visitors have come from the mainland, says Lee, who hopes that the temporary museum will lay the foundation for a permanent exhibition space in the future.
June 4 Memorial Museum, open until June 10, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Sunday and public holidays, noon to 8 p.m.
The exhibition is in Chinese, but volunteer guides will explain everything to English-speaking visitors.
Getting there: 2/F, 269 Yu Chau Street, Sham Shui Po, Kowloon, at the intersection of Yu Chau Street and Kweilin Street, near Sham Shui Po MTR exit C2, +852 2782 6111, www.alliance.org.hk