Beijing removes the name of Sitong Bridge in Order to erase Tiananmen
Fearing the place’s symbolism, the authorities remove road signs from the site of last October’s unprecedented protest against Xi Jinping, on the eve of the Party congress. Meanwhile, a fair showcasing products from mainland China is set to open at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, where a vigil honouring the victims of the 4 June 1989 massacre was held annually until 2020.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – As 4 June approaches, China is cranking up its repressive machine to prevent any commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre when then supreme leader, Deng Xiaoping, sent in the tanks to stop months-long mass protests by pro-democracy students.
One of the leaders of the student movement at the time, Zhou Fengsuo, who currently lives in exile in the United States, posted some pictures on Twitter showing Sitong Bridge without road signs, which Chinese authorities had removed.
The bridge is where a dissident, Peng Lifa, unfurled banners in favour of democracy and against Chinese President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy ahead of last October’s Communist Party Congress. Immediately arrested, Peng soon became a folk hero online, inspiring other protests.
In his tweet, Zhou Fengsuo also noted that many young people who took part in the Tiananmen Square movement came from Sitong.
To avoid protests and prevent the spread of inconvenient information, in addition to online censorship, Chinese authorities have the habit of removing street signs.
A few days after Peng Lifa's banners appeared on the Sitong Bridge, a fire broke out in a residential high-rise in Ürümqi, capital of the Xinjiang autonomous region, and people inside, all ethnic Uyghurs, died because the doors had been welded in compliance with the zero-COVID policy.
When the news was leaked on social media, spontaneous vigils were held at Ürümqi Road in Shanghai, with hundreds of people taking part. Here too, street signs were removed, even though it was one of the busiest roads in the city.
If signs go missing in Beijing, in Hong Kong, the authorities have more up their sleeves. Not only can they turn to the national security law, they have also proven creative when it comes to stopping Tiananmen-related events.
In Victoria Park, where a vigil was held every year until 2020 to commemorate the victims of the communist regime, 26 pro-Beijing associations will hold a fair this year with more than 200 stands covering the equivalent of four football fields showcasing products from mainland provinces.
As a press conference, organisers said that the event was designed to "promote social harmony". When asked why it was being held on the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown, Tang Ching-ho, executive chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Guangdong Community Organisations, said that it was pure “coincidence”.
“We often hold these events, and coincidentally our application for this time was approved,” Tang explained.
What no one can explain away are the scars left by the repression of 34 years ago. Once again, the Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing the victims of the massacre, asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to take responsibility for the government's actions.
"They may believe that they had nothing to do with the order to open fire [on unarmed civilians] back then, but ... it was still done by the party in power, the Communist Party," said You Weijie, a spokeswoman for the group speaking to Radio Free Asia.
“The government of today should take full responsibility and tell the public about everything that took place then," she added.
In mainland China, the events of 1989 are heavily censored. The number of people killed during the armed repression is still unknown, ranging possibly from a few hundred to a few thousand.
For the past 34 years, the Tiananmen Mothers have persistently demanded that Beijing reveal what happened, prosecute those responsible, and compensate the victims’ families.
"We are sincere in seeking dialogue with the government," Ms You said. "The government has evaded responsibility for the tragedy that took place that year." Since then, 70 parents of the victims have died. "We won't give up on this,” she insisted.