Hong Kong Tiananmen museum turns to digitalisation after new law

HONG KONG: A Hong Kong museum chronicling the crackdown by Chinese troops on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square is raising funds to digitalise its collection as concerns over a new national security law create uncertainty over its future.

The sweeping legislation, which came into force in the Chinese-ruled city last week, punishes crimes related to secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces, with punishments of up to life in prison.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, who manages the museum, said it was not clear whether the museum would be treated as subversive or undermining the Chinese government.

“We hope that the physical artefacts will not be confiscated in the future, and that is exactly what really worries us,” Lee said.

Beijing’s crackdown in 1989 still remains taboo in the mainland and public discussion is censored. The annual June 4 anniversaries, commemorated in Hong Kong by tens of thousands of people, are not acknowledged by the Chinese government.

The museum, in a bustling commercial area in the city’s Kowloon district, plays video footage of troops opening fire on protesters as well as cartoon images and graphics of the event.

Colourful posters also depict Hong Kong’s own protest movements, including those of recent years.

Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters denounce what they see as China’s gradual erosion of those freedoms by Communist Party rulers in Beijing, a charge China denies.

“It’s really important to have a place at least to remember what happened, because I feel like we don’t have to forget the history,” said German Moles, 22, a student from Spain who was visiting the museum.

Lee, who organises Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen vigil, said the museum was aiming to go online in September 2021.

Police cancelled the vigil this year, citing the coronavirus.

“We believe you can ban the rally but you cannot ban the heart, the remembrance, our memories... we will continue to remind the world what had happened 31 years ago,” Lee said.