Vancouver residents mark anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre

Society seeks to raise awareness, 32 years after violent crackdown on Chinese pro-democracy protesters

May 30, 2021, wreath laying in front of the Statue of Democracy at the University of B.C. Photo by Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement.

Vancouver residents can pay tribute to the Tiananmen Square Massacre both online and in person, at China’s consulate on Granville Street today.

The Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement (VSSDM) has organized an online vigil (YouTube Square) for 3 p.m. followed by a march to the Chinese consulate (3380 Granville Street) at 8 p.m.

The online event today will feature speaker Fang Zheng, a survivor who was crippled by a tank, and Chow Hang Tung, vice-president of Hong Kong Alliance. People wanting to remember the victims and show their support for democracy in places claimed by the Chinese Communist Party – from Hong Hong and Taiwan to the People’s Republic of China – are asked to dress in black, wear a mask and maintain physical distance.

Over the last 32 years, Canadians, many with Hong Kong ties, have gathered at two locations with small statues known as the Goddess of Democracy – at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Burnaby and at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

The two statues mark a place to gather when Hong Kong faces incursion by Beijing on the One Country Two Systems principle. For example, the UBC Goddess was decorated with a yellow umbrella in 2014 to protest Beijing’s pre-screening of political candidates. And extradition laws proposed by Beijing in 2019 prompted further gatherings.

On June 4, 1989, the People’s Liberation Army opened fire on mostly student pro-democracy protesters. The death count is not clear to this day but estimates range from hundreds to thousands.

Now, the massacre has taken on greater meaning as the CCP continues to overrule Hong Kong’s democratic government and institutions and is increasingly jailing dissidents for speaking about Tiananmen Square.

A letter from Lee Cheuk-yan has been shared by VSSDM online. The former Hong Kong politician and now jailed activist wrote of the recent bans on Tiananmen Square vigils in Hong Kong.

“The ban on June 4 rallies this year is already expected. Last year, the police also banned gatherings on the grounds of the epidemic. But that night, the UNFCCC Standing Committee and nearly 10,000 people were in the Victoria Park. There was no stage, no sound, only candles or phones lit by their own candles. Outside Victoria Park, there is also a bit of candlelight in various communities. The assembly was banned, but the freedom of not forgetting June 4 cannot be banned.”

International reports today indicate more arrests have occurred in Hong Kong.

Vancouver-based democracy activists suggest more prominence be given to memorializing the Tiananmen Square Massacre in the city now that Beijing’s proposed national security law more clearly threatens the annual memorial in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.

The deadly crackdown shaped Vancouver with a wave of immigration by worried Hong Kong residents.

“The horror of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 directly and indirectly triggered two of the largest immigration waves in Canada, from 1990 to 1992 and 1996 to 1998,” said Ivy Li, member of the Canadian Friends of Hong Kong society in 2020.

“Terrified by the brutality of the dictatorial Chinese Communist Party, tens of thousands of Hong Kongers fled their home to start a new life in Canada,” said Li.

Between 1987 and 1997, 225,000 people emigrated from Hong Kong to Canada, according to a Statistics Canada website outlining the biggest immigration waves in history.

Li says more prominent recognition of Tiananmen Square events could also help non-Chinese people better understand the shared values of much of the Chinese diaspora here in B.C.

Although the City of Vancouver has not stepped up to formally mark the event for its citizens Mayor Kennedy Stewart stated in April he is suspending meetings with China’s consul general citing human rights concerns.

Meanwhile, Premier John Horgan and his BC NDP government has faced sustained criticism from Hong Kong activists for not taking a stand against the CCP and actually supporting trade initiatives linked to alleged genocide in XinJiang.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca