HONG KONG—China on Saturday berated the US and EU consulates in Hong Kong for displaying candles to commemorate the June 4 Tiananmen crackdown, slamming it as a “clumsy political show” to destabilize the city.
Candles were seen lit in the windows of the US consulate building, which is next to the residence of Hong Kong’s Beijing-appointed leader Carrie Lam, and the European Union’s office on Friday night.
The missions also posted photographs of their candlelit Tiananmen memorials on social media.
Meanwhile, searches for the famous Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” protest photo came up empty on Microsoft search engine Bing on Friday, raising censorship concerns on the anniversary of the deadly crackdown.
The award-winning photo from 1989 was not served up in image or video searches using Bing even outside China, a country known for strictly controlling what is available online.
“This is due to an accidental human error, and we are actively working to resolve this,” a Microsoft spokesman said in response to an AFP inquiry prompted by US press reports.
Meanwhile, searches for Tank Man using Google, which has some 92 percent of the global market for online queries according to Statcounter, turned up an assortment of pictures along with the iconic one by photographer Charlie Cole and others.
Google search is not offered in China, where censors have purged Tank Man from the internet. Baidu is the dominant search engine in China.
The Tank Man photo shows a lone protester in a white shirt blocking the path of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989.
“Any attempt to exploit Hong Kong to carry out infiltration or sabotage activities against the mainland crosses the red line ... is absolutely intolerable,” a spokesperson for the Hong Kong office of China’s foreign ministry said.
“We again urge the organs of relevant countries in Hong Kong to immediately ... stop meddling with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs at large and avoid playing with fire.”
For three decades in Hong Kong, huge crowds, often tens of thousands strong, have held candlelit vigils on June 4 for those killed in 1989 when tanks and troops crushed pro-democracy protests in Beijing.
Crowds have swelled in recent years as Hong Kongers chafe under Beijing’s increasingly assertive rule.
However, this year’s vigil was banned at a time when Hong Kong authorities are carrying out a sweeping clampdown on dissent following huge and often violent democracy protests two years ago.
Flashes of defiance still flickered across the city Friday night as residents simultaneously turned their mobile phone lights or lit candles in multiple districts across the city to mark the date.
There were online calls for people to turn off the lights at home and place candles in their windows in commemoration.
Public commemorations of June 4 are forbidden in mainland China and, until recently, semi-autonomous Hong Kong was the one place in China where large scale remembrance was still tolerated.
Friday marked the anniversary of Chinese troops crushing peaceful democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Hundreds were killed in the crackdown, by some estimates more than 1,000.
In mainland China, the Tiananmen anniversary is usually marked by an increase in online censorship and the square in Beijing placed under tight security.
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