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Macau bans Tiananmen Massacre photo exhibition for first time in three decades

Whether commemorative ritual will still be held in Hong Kong remains unclear

Tiananmen Square in 1988 (Derzsi Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons photo)

Tiananmen Square in 1988 (Derzsi Elekes Andor/Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Macau authorities have banned an annual photo exhibition of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, sparking concern over Beijing’s growing encroachment on the territory.

The Municipal Affairs Bureau has withdrawn its approval for the photographic exhibition for the first time in three decades, the event organizer, Democratic Development Union (DDU), confirmed last week via Facebook. According to an official document sent to the DDU on May 7, the event "does not meet relevant guidelines.”

The photo exhibition, which tours different venues in Macau every year, has been held unhampered for decades. However, the DDU said that one day after it had been granted government permission to hold the event this year, another official notice revoked the decision. The DDU’s appeal was also rejected, with the bureau citing the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as the reason.

Critics fear that the government ban reflects the Chinese authorities’ tightening grip on the special administrative region, especially since Ho Iat Seng (賀一誠) assumed his post as Macau’s chief executive late last year. In addition, Xia Baolong (夏寶龍), vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, replaced Zhang Xiaoming (張曉明) as the head of Beijing’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office in January.

The incident has also raised questions about whether the annual event in Hong Kong commemorating the Tiananmen Massacre victims will proceed without a hitch in June. Hong Kong authorities have introduced a ban on public gatherings since March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, even though opposition leaders have criticized the move as an attempt to suppress the pro-democracy protests.

Hong Kong and Macau have been the only two Chinese territories where events commemorating the 1989 democracy movement are allowed. The protests at Tiananmen Square came to an abrupt end three decades ago after demonstrators were met with a brutal crackdown by the Chinese government starting late in the evening of June 3, with thousands of lives reportedly lost in a single night.