On the evening of June 3-4, 1989, Chinese tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square in Beijing to brutally crush an unprecedented democracy movement. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people were killed when troops opened fire on the students and workers who for weeks had been peacefully calling for political reforms.
No one knows the exact number who died that day. The official Chinese government report claimed that some 200 died, including dozens of soldiers, and over 3000 were wounded – figures that are widely believed to be far too low.
Immediately after the military crackdown, the authorities began to hunt down those involved in the demonstrations. Thousands were detained, tortured, or imprisoned after unfair trials. Some were executed.
China has never publicly acknowledged the human rights violations which occurred in the Tiananmen crackdown, conducted any investigation, or provided any compensation to the victims and their families.
Instead, for over three decades, the Chinese authorities have done all they can to stop people from asking questions about that day or even talking about it.
Starting in 1990, every year on June 4, the biggest candlelight vigils in the world were held in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park – sometimes involving hundreds of thousands of people.
The vigils were banned in 2020 when the National Security Law came into force. Now organizers such as Chow Hang-tung are facing prosecution.
Human rights lawyer and labour rights advocate Chow Hang-tung was charged for “inciting subversion” under the new National Security Law on September 9, 2021. She faces a potential 10 year sentence. At the time of being charged, she was the vice-chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China (the Alliance), the organizer of the annual Hong Kong vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown since 1990. Chow Hang-tung was exercising her fundamental human right of freedom of expression through peaceful means.
China is erasing the memory of Tiananmen Square through systematic censorship and criminalization of commemoration activities. It’s up to the global community to keep that memory alive.
The simple act of lighting a candle for Tiananmen has become a crime in Hong Kong, just as it has been in mainland China for more than 30 years.
Hongkongers once stood in solidarity with the victims of Tiananmen. The rest of the world now stands with the people of Hong Kong to the deliver the same message: repression will not be tolerated anywhere.
What you can do
Light a candle with Amnesty. On Saturday June 4th, please join a special commemoration on social media to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions on lighting a virtual candle in Tiananmen Square using Instagram or Facebook. Use the hashtag #WeRemember64 on social media.
Sign the global action calling for the immediate release of Chow Hang-tung.