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Hong Kong's Tiananmen Square museum reopens

Jenipher Camino Gonzalez
April 26, 2019

Organizers said the museum's exhibition will commemorate "the sacrifice of martyrs" in China's 1989 democracy movement. The reopening comes just weeks after the museum was vandalized.

A sign for the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/V. Yuen

China's sole museum commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown reopened in Hong Kong's Mong Kok district on Friday, ahead of the protest's upcoming 30th anniversary this summer.

"Against all odds, Hong Kong Alliance is now reopening the June 4th Museum, the only place in China where the truth about June 4 can be told," operators said on the museum's website.

The Tiananmen museum is currently run by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. The same movement is responsible for organizing the June 4 annual remembrance vigil.

Read more: Tiananmen anniversary — keeping the memory of the massacre alive

'The spirit of 1989'

For its reopening, the museum's exhibition will be themed "Memory. Justice. Hope." Organizers said it meant to commemorate "the sacrifice of martyrs and their dedication in the 1989 democracy movement."

It will feature photos, multimedia presentations and a virtual reality display of Hong Kong's annual candlelight vigil. The exhibitions will "present the spirit of the 1989 democracy movement and the truth of June 4," organizers said.

A timer will be placed at the entrance of the museum, showing the number of years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds since June 4, 1989.

A woman looks at exhibits in the June 4th Museum
The museum exhibition's theme: 'Memory. Justice. Hope.'Image: Reuters/T. Siu

Trouble staying open

Information regarding the events at the Tiananmen Square protest is highly censored in mainland China. But the situation is different in Hong Kong, which is still an autonomous territory with special rights and freedoms until 2047.

"In Hong Kong, we still have room for freedom of expression. Thus, we bear a greater responsibility to preserve history, inherit the truth, call for conscience, vindicate June 4, and promote reflection on the prospects for democracy in China," the museum said. 

Read more: Secret cable: 10,000 killed in China's 1989 Tiananmen crackdown

Though organizers have been able to make the museum a reality, keeping it in operation has proved to be a struggle.

The museum opened in 2012, but it was forced to close down in 2016 due to a conflict with the building's landlord. Prior to its closure, it had received some 24,000 visitors.

Three weeks before its reopening, the museum was vandalized, in an attack that sought to damage its electrical system and furniture. 

Objects and documents from the era are displayed in the museum
The museum displays objects and documents from the eraImage: Reuters/T. Siu

The Tiananmen-Hong Kong connection

Hong Kong played a critical role in helping Tiananmen activists escape from China. The efforts were dubbed "Operation Yellowbird." 

Objects and documents from the era as well as videos, photographs and testimony from survivors are featured in the museum.

"It's the only place in the world where we can see some of the historical items collected in one place. I was there five years ago, six years ago I was really touched when I saw it," Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader at Tiananmen Square, told the dpa news agency.

Read more: Hong Kong umbrella movement leaders say 'freedom is on trial'

The museum also showcases a book club and a gift shop, which sells literature on the protest movement that is not available in the rest of China.

Due to the uncertain future of freedom of speech in Hong Kong, activists have said they are planning to build a second Tiananmen museum in New York City.

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