January 9, 2017 / 9:43 AM / 6 months ago

Protesters vow Tiananmen crackdown memorial at Hong Kong Palace Museum site

3 Min Read

Pro-democracy activists protest in front of an illustration of Beijing's Palace Museum in Hong Kong, China, January 9, 2017.Bobby Yip

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong democracy activists on Monday vowed to use the site of a controversial museum intended to display national treasures from Beijing's Palace Museum to commemorate instead China's bloody crackdown on student-led protests in 1989.

The Hong Kong Palace Museum, announced late in December as part of celebrations marking the 20th anniversary this year of the former British colony's return to Chinese control, is the latest source of tension between pro- and anti-Beijing forces.

Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said he aimed to host activities around the museum to remind people of events outside the palace walls of the Forbidden City on June 4, 1989.

Hong Kong is ruled under a "one country, two systems" formula that gives it wide-ranging freedoms not seen in mainland China, including the right to hold a candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen crackdown.

"When we look at this Palace Museum, what it reminds us of is not what is inside, but what happened outside in 1989, when tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square, when the People's Liberation Army fired on its own people," said Lee, a former legislator and organiser of the annual commemoration vigil.

"We'll try to change this Palace Museum into a June 4 Museum," he added.

For China's ruling Communist Party, the 1989 demonstrations that clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing and spread to other cities remain taboo. The government has never released a death toll of the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

Lee and about 40 protesters, wearing headbands reminiscent of those worn by pro-democracy student protesters outside Tiananmen Square in 1989, on Monday shouted slogans and marched inside a subway station where a meters-long advertisement poster had the Palace Museum splashed across walls.

The museum, due to be completed in 2022, has been criticised by anti-Beijing activists over what they call a lack of consultation by the government in the decision-making process.

A public consultation due to be held on Monday was postponed until Tuesday.

The former imperial palace in the heart of China's capital is commonly regarded as a physical symbol of the country's long history and the Communist Party's might.

Reporting by Venus Wu; Editing by Anne Marie Roantree and Clarence Fernandez

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