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Electric candles are displayed by the windows of the US consulate building in Central on Saturday to mark the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Yik Yeung-man

Beijing’s foreign ministry in Hong Kong hits back at Western consulates over messages marking Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary

  • Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Commissioner in Hong Kong expresses ‘strong disapproval and firm opposition’ in letter sent to one of the consulates
  • Senior European diplomat based in Hong Kong confirms having received letter, says he has heard some of the bloc’s consulates also received such a note

Beijing’s foreign ministry office in Hong Kong has made “solemn representations” to several Western consulates a day after they defied its appeal not to openly comment on the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the Post has learned.

Despite the central government’s appeal to refrain from commenting on the incident, the consulates of the United States and Finland, as well as the European Union, placed lighted candles by the windows of their Hong Kong offices on Saturday to mark the June 4 crackdown in Beijing 33 years ago, and uploaded the pictures on their social media pages.

The Canadian and Australian consulates also posted messages to mark the event, with some EU member states sharing the post from Brussels.

The European Union’s office in Hong Kong on Saturday shared a tweet commemorating the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. Photo: Twitter

In a letter sent on Sunday which was seen by the Post, the Office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry Commissioner in Hong Kong expressed its “strong disapproval and firm opposition” and made “solemn representations” to one of the consulates which spoke up on the crackdown.

“In disregard of China’s solemn position and advance warning, your office repeated the wrong deeds of last year and insisted on posting misleading words about the June 4 incident on the social media accounts of your office on June 4 to support and echo the so-called ‘June 4 candlelight vigil’,” it read.

“The above-mentioned acts of your office grossly trample on the principle of international law and the basic norm governing international relations of non-interference in others’ internal affairs.”

The foreign ministry’s office also reiterated China’s opposition to any country imposing its own values on others as “the only standard”, urging the consulate to take its concerns and solemn representations seriously and stop interfering in Hong Kong affairs.

Western envoys in Hong Kong ignore Beijing appeal on Tiananmen crackdown

A senior European diplomat based in Hong Kong also confirmed receiving the letter, saying he heard some consulates of the bloc had received such a note as well. Both the US and Canadian consulates said they had no comments on the issue.

The commissioner’s office has been approached for comment.

Ahead of the crackdown’s anniversary on Saturday, the Chinese office in the city had sent out reminders to a list of consulates, asking them not to publicly say anything about June 4.

But the appeal, which some Hong Kong-based diplomats said was the first of its kind, fell on deaf ears as several Western consulates issued messages one after another to mark the tragedy on Saturday. British Consul General Brian Davidson also said in a statement he had witnessed the crackdown. “I reflect as well as remember,” he said.

02:43

June 4th Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary quiet again in Hong Kong

June 4th Tiananmen Square crackdown anniversary quiet again in Hong Kong

Hong Kong had been the only city on Chinese soil where large-scale activities were held to mourn those killed in the crackdown. But for three consecutive years, the city’s authorities have banned the annual June 4 vigil at Victoria Park, citing public health concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some residents on Saturday chose to mourn the event in a low-key manner, such as carrying flowers or candles, or flashing lights from their mobile phones in the area amid a heavy police presence. The force, which had warned residents not to participate in any “unlawful assembly”, had largely cordoned off the park that night.

Six people were arrested that night in connection with efforts to mark the crackdown’s anniversary for offences including allegedly inciting others to participate in an unauthorised assembly, obstructing police officers in the execution of their duties and possession of an offensive weapon.

Additional reporting by Gary Cheung

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