The Washington Post

What it’s like visiting Hong Kong’s tiny museum for Tiananmen Square

A woman wearing a T-shirt supporting the Tianamen Mothers holds a bouquet of flowers at the June 4th Museum in Hong Kong. (Jerome Favre/European Pressphoto Agency)

In a tiny fifth floor room in an office building in Kowloon, Hong Kong, a museum was set up in April to commemorate the events of June 4, 1989, better known by some as "Tiananmen Square." It has already already attracted about 6,000 visitors since it opened.

Only a few dozen people can fit into the 800-square-foot exhibition space at a time, but by the end of Wednesday, about 400 visitors had come. Johnny Li, a 26-year-old staff member, said about 40 to 50 percent of visitors come from mainland China.

"Some are surprised because they didn't know the history of June 4, but some already know, and share and discuss with other people in the museum," he said.

In this May 28, 2014 photo, Tank Man, a lone protester blocks the way of a line of several tanks during the 1989 pro-democracy movement in Beijing. The photo is on display at the June 4th Museum. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Fok Chi Kin, 24, a student from the Chinese territory of Macau, said he had come to Hong Kong to visit the museum and attend the evening vigil. "The country should face it," he said, ruing that very little information was available about events in Macau, it was not covered in history books and lecturers were reluctant to talk about it.

"People in high school don't know what happened," he said. "Most people think it's just history. They don't know what happened, it's not that they don't care. If they knew, they would care."

A man walks past a billboard at the June 4th Museum. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

A couple of 26-year-olds from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, said they had come especially for June 4 "because we are supporters of liberty and freedom and democracy."

"Some of us know about it, but not so many," said Tony, a teacher, who said he had found out from teachers at college. His friend Teddy, a secretary, said she had found out from an ex-boyfriend.

A replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue is displayed at the June 4th Museum. (Vincent Yu/AP)

Tony said it was "almost impossible" to protest in China now and that he was "disgusted" by the events of June 4.

Another 26-year-old, an architect from Guangzhou, said she had become curious after her brother had asked her if she knew what had happened, and she had  subsequently found a YouTube video, which is now blocked in China. She said most of her friends do not know what happened "or they don't bother to find out."

"If you really want, you can find out," she said.

Visitors look at newspaper archives at the June 4th Museum. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

The museum shows photos from the protests, reports from the era and videos, including testimony of mothers who lost their children and the PBS "Frontline" video "The Tank Man". It also contains a small replica of the Goddess of Democracy statue.

But it was impossibly cramped.

Simon Denyer is The Post’s bureau chief in China. He served previously as bureau chief in India and as a Reuters bureau chief in Washington, India and Pakistan.



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