China: Opposition to world's first Tiananmen massacre museum is 'politically-motivated'

China: Opposition to world's first Tiananmen massacre museum is 'politically-motivated'
By Chris Harris with REUTERS
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The world’s first permanent museum dedicated to China's Tiananmen Square massacre is hoping to open – sparking tensions in host city Hong Kong.

The planned opening comes ahead of a key anniversary of the bloody crackdown, which saw hundreds killed when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters, on June 3/4, 1989.

But the bid to establish the museum, planned to open on April 26, has run into local opposition, which some say has links to Bejing.

The owners’ committee for Foo Hoo Center, where the museum plans to base itself, voted to bar it from opening, claiming in a legal document the units can only be used as office space.

A letter, issued by solicitors representing the owners, read: “We anticipate and have a real concern that your proposed use of the fifth floor will operate as a lightning rod and attract to the building and its vicinity an inordinate number of visitors, both supporters and detractors.”

“This is obviously a politically-motivated lawsuit,” said Lee Cheuk-yan, head of the The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. “I don’t think any sensible person would use his own money to start a lawsuit, so there must be someone behind it. Of course they [the building’s owners] would not divulge who is behind them financially.”

There are fears this row could escalate into a broader headache for Bejing, amid rising resentment over its tightening control over Hong Kong’s affairs and calls for universal suffrage.

Also, the fact people in Hong Kong can discuss the 1989 crackdown at all is a potent symbol of its freedom, compared to mainland China.

Public commemorations of Tiananmen are banned in China, compared with Hong Kong, a British colony that reverted to Bejing control in 1997, which hosts a candlelit vigil to the massacre every June.

The museum will feature photographs, a goddess of democracy and other documentary materials chronicling the crackdown.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, established in the aftermath of the tragedy, seeks to build a democratic China and end the one-party rule system.

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