China tightened security in parts of the country on Sunday, the 34th anniversary of a 1989 military crackdown on a student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, with no rallies held in Hong Kong as the mainland continues its clampdown there.
Intent on maintaining one-party rule, China's Communist Party has justified the deadly 1989 incident by declaring it necessary to quell political unrest. Open discussion about the massacre remains taboo in the country, but rallies were held in Japan and Taiwan, with young people born after the incident also participating.
A massive security presence was observed near the square and other places in the capital on Sunday, with authorities apparently aiming to contain any potential demonstrations.
In the run-up to the anniversary, security forces kept watch at Beijing's Sitong Bridge, where banners were raised last October with slogans such as "We don't want lockdowns, we want freedom," in protest of the country's stringent "zero-COVID" policy in place at that time.
A road sign showing the bridge name was removed, and searches for the protest site on maps offered by Chinese internet giant Baidu Inc. returned no results.
The rare October demonstration was held shortly before the Communist Party's twice-a-decade congress, at which leader Xi Jinping secured an unprecedented third five-year term as general secretary.
On Twitter, images went viral Saturday showing a woman waving an American flag and apparently throwing sheets of paper with text from the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The Tiananmen Mothers, a group of the victims' relatives, repeated their call for "truth, compensation and accountability" related to the incident in an online statement in late May, urging the Chinese government to offer an apology. However, the document cannot be seen in China due to internet censorship.
You Weijie, 69, a representative of the group who lost her husband in the crackdown, told Kyodo News that families of the victims cannot accept the Chinese authorities' justification of the killings and urged the government to "look squarely at" the incident.
On Saturday, security officials monitored visitors to the home of Zhang Xianling, 85, a co-founder of the Tiananmen Mothers.
On Sunday in Hong Kong's Victoria Park, where thousands had gathered annually for candlelight vigils since 1990 in remembrance of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, pro-Beijing organizations staged an event, while some 5,000 local police officers were mobilized to prevent any demonstrations, according to Hong Kong media reports.
Hong Kong police banned the vigil for the past three years, citing public safety concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic, with officials warning that participating in or promoting the rally would be illegal.
Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post commemorating the anniversary that people in Taiwan enjoy democracy and freedom, and various creative activities have enriched the island's culture.
She expressed hope that one day, young friends in China will also be able to engage in such activities "only with enthusiasm, not worries."
In Taipei, people braved the rain to offer flowers Sunday at a mourning pavilion set up outside of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. An electric candlelight commemoration was held there later in the day.
A woman, who claimed to be visiting from Hong Kong, told reporters, "I'm very grateful because Hong Kong can't openly and publicly hold these events anymore."
Sky Fung, originally from Hong Kong and now secretary general of the Hong Kong Outlanders civic group in Taiwan, told Kyodo News at the event he feels "regret and pain" that the former British colony can no longer publicly mourn the Tiananmen incident.
"All we want to do is to give a voice to the voiceless and let the truth and history be known so that people can clearly understand and remember what happened," Fung said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday, "The victims' bravery will not be forgotten and continues to inspire advocates for these principles around the world." The United States will "continue advocating for people's human rights and fundamental freedoms in China and around the world," he added.
In 2021, the Communist Party adopted a pivotal resolution on the nation's modern history that classified the quashed pro-democracy protests as a "political disturbance."
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning said the country's government has "already come to a clear conclusion" on the Tiananmen incident, adding, "Any attempt to discredit China and interfere in China's internal affairs, using this as an excuse, will not succeed."
The ministry did not upload records of the question or her answer on its website, apparently to keep the public from knowing the topic had been addressed.
Hong Kong's Chief Executive John Lee warned Tuesday that the police in the territory would "take action resolutely" against those who breach the law when questioned about the legality of residents commemorating the tragedy in public.
"Everybody should act in accordance with the law and think of what they do so as to be ready to face the consequences," the city leader added.