Friday marks the 32nd anniversary of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around central Beijing in the early hours of June 4, 1989.
For an event that happened almost 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) away, the Tiananmen Square massacre has become deeply embedded in Hong Kong’s psyche. That’s because for the past three decades, Hong Kong was the only place where major commemorations were held, including marches, church services, and huge candlelit vigils in the city’s Victoria Park.
After Hong Kong became part of China in 1997, the continuation of these events was always seen as a major litmus test for the city’s ongoing autonomy and democratic freedoms, supposedly guaranteed until 2047 by its de facto constitution, the Basic Law, under the principle of “one country, two systems.”
The 30th anniversary in 2019 saw one of the biggest turnouts at the Victoria Park vigil, with organizers claiming some 180,000 people joined the commemoration (though police said it was closer to 40,000). That anniversary came amid escalating tensions over a proposed extradition bill between Hong Kong and China: just five days later, over a million people marched against it, and in the months that followed, the city was consumed by increasingly violent protests and police crackdowns.