Hong Kong museum commemorating 1989 Tiananmen victims reopens online

The museum's physical location in Hong Kong closed on June 2 due to an investigation into its licensing. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (REUTERS) - Hong Kong's June 4th Museum, dedicated to the victims of China's 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, reopened online on Wednesday (Aug 4) as "8964 Museum", a pro-democracy group said.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organiser of annual June 4 vigils in the global financial hub, said the launch was crowdfunded and organised overseas after a "political risk assessment".

Its physical location in Hong Kong closed on June 2 due to an investigation by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department into its licensing.

After Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on the city last year, fears have grown over whether the museum would still be allowed to operate.

"Political repression has intensified," the alliance said in a statement. "The June 4th Museum is currently closed and reopening will only be considered when a suitable method or location is found in the future."

The online museum operates independently from the alliance, the statement said.

The former British colony of Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with a promise its wide-ranging freedoms would remain intact, traditionally holds the largest June 4 vigil in the world to commemorate the victims of the crackdown.

Mainland China bans commemorations and heavily censors mention of the topic.

Hong Kong police banned the last two vigils, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

The alliance's chairman Lee Cheuk Yan is in jail, accused of participating in an unauthorised assembly.

Vice-chairman Chow Hang Tung was arrested on the eve of June 4 this year and charged with incitement to knowingly take part in an unauthorised assembly. She has been denied bail.

The Hong Kong authorities have repeatedly denied curbing human rights and freedoms in the city and say law enforcement has been based on evidence and has nothing to do with the background, profession or political beliefs of those arrested.

The death toll of the 1989 crackdown given by Chinese officials days after the incident was about 300, most of them soldiers, but rights groups and witnesses say thousands of people may have been killed.

Join ST's Telegram channel here and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.