A Hong Kong-based rights group has acquired a permanent venue which it plans to turn into a museum dedicated to the June 4, 1989 military crackdown by China's People's Liberation Army on a student-led pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
Richard Choi, deputy chairman of the Hong Kong-based Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said the group planned to launch the museum to mark the 25th anniversary of the massacre next June.
The June 4 Memorial Hall will be housed in two 800-square-foot stories in the downtown Kowloon shopping district of Tsimshatsui, which the Alliance purchased on Tuesday, Choi said.
"We believe that there will be many more [Hong Kong] citizens and compatriots [from mainland China] celebrating the 25th anniversary than in previous years," he said.
"It's very important that the memorial hall be open by then," he said.
While Beijing's censors typically muzzle any online or media discussion of the topic, Hong Kong has become one of the few Chinese cities in which large crowds are able to turn out to remember those who died in the student-led movement of 1989.
Activists there have vowed to keep up pressure on the Chinese government for an official reappraisal of the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square.
Choi said the group had so far experienced no obstacle to its plans on the part of the Hong Kong government, nor any other organization.
"The biggest difficulties have been financing it and finding a venue," he said.
A fresh focus
U.S.-based dissident and former 1989 student leader Wang Dan welcomed the news, saying the project would provide a fresh focus for remembering the massacre.
"Of course I'm very happy; I donated some funds to support the project," Wang told RFA's Cantonese Service on Tuesday.
"I think it will promote the memory of June 4 if there is a fixed address [for the museum]," he said. "I think it will promote the collective memory of the pro-democracy movement."
"Historical memory is in itself a form of protest," Wang added.
Chung Kim-wah, social policy professor at Hong Kong's Polytechnic University, said there could yet be a backlash against the project on the part of pro-Beijing voices in the former British colony, however.
"I think we will see some people writing a lot of editorials about a permanent memorial venue, and stepping up their criticism of the Alliance," Chung said.
"I think that the museum will still require donations from the public, so if that succeeds, it will show that there is a certain amount of public support," he said.
"It will make the whole of society reflect on the incident, and it will bring solace to the victims," Chung added.
The museum will exhibit memorabilia from the student-led movement, which began in Tiananmen Square and spread to other Chinese cities throughout the spring of 1989, and the subsequent military operation.
Choi said the Alliance is now in the process of commissioning the design of the exhibit, which activists hope will invite intellectual reflection as well as emotional participation in the event of the time.
A temporary exhibit of more than 600 artifacts set up by the Alliance in April 2012, including clothing signed by hunger-striking students on the Square and photos of People's Liberation Army spent bullets, closed last December after the lease expired.
As the politically sensitive anniversary approaches, Chinese authorities typically ban online discussion and searches linked to the June 4, 1989 military crackdown in Beijing, while the country's state security police step up pressure on activists.
Earlier this year, keyword searches in Chinese for "24th anniversary" and "demonstration" were blocked on the popular microblogging site Sina Weibo from May 25, according to the China Digital Times, which monitors online and mainstream media censorship.
Three activists from the southern city of Guangzhou who were detained by police after seeking approval for a demonstration to commemorate those who died in the massacre.
Activists and the relatives of victims of the June 4 crackdown have stepped up pressure on the Chinese government in recent years for an official reappraisal of the 1989 military crackdown on unarmed pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.
The number of people killed when People's Liberation Army tanks and troops entered Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989 remains a mystery.
Beijing authorities once put the death toll at "nearly 300," but the central government, which labelled the six weeks of unarmed pro-democracy protests and hunger strikes a “counterrevolutionary uprising,” has not issued an official toll or name list.
Reported by Grace Kei Lai-see for RFA's Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.