The website 8964museum.com was launched in August by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China. Titled “June 4th Memory Human Rights Museum”, the website was set up after the physical exhibit was shut down by authorities in June over a licensing investigation.
Users have not been able to access the online museum since 23 September, the administrators of the website said. They believe it is yet another crackdown by China.
“This is a disgraceful act to erase historical memory,” the online museum said, according to Reuters.
Discussions around the 1989 crackdown by China against student-led pro-democracy protests in Beijing remain heavily censored. But the censorship is new for Hong Kong, where annual vigils have been organised for decades. They have been banned for the past two years due to coronavirus concerns.
The Hong Kong Alliance, which organises these annual vigils, is already facing investigation under the controversial National Security Law. The physical exhibit of the June 4th memorial was closed in June due to a licensing probe, and the organisation’s assets and bank accounts have been frozen.
Authorities have not confirmed whether the website was censored due to the ongoing investigation against the Hong Kong Alliance.
However, the city police said the national security legislation states that “police may require service providers to take actions to prohibit electronic messages posted on electronic platforms that are likely to endanger national security”.
The Hong Kong Alliance was set up after the 1989 massacres at Tiananmen Square. The museum was dedicated to the thousands of people who were killed on 4 June 1989, when the People’s Liberation Army attacked demonstrators and those trying to block the military’s advance into Tiananmen Square with troops and tanks.
Since 2019, the group has been facing legal challenges, with the police accusing it of inciting violence and of being “an agent of foreign forces”. Two of the group’s leaders are among pro-democracy activists arrested for participating in protests in 2019. Nine activists were arrested and sentenced to ten months in prison for participating in last year’s banned Tiananmen Square vigil.
The alliance denied allegations but decided to disband earlier this month after continued pressure.
Hong Kong has traditionally enjoyed greater internet freedom than mainland China, where access to foreign social media platforms and news sites is blocked. But with the new security law imposed in 2020 by Beijing, there has been more censorship.
Experts have said that the crackdowns and censorship were an end to Hong Kong’s “One Country, Two Systems” model.
In August, Hong Kong’s Civil Human Rights Front, the most prominent of the city’s civil society groups that led the 2019 protests, was also forced to be disbanded after more than 20 years of operations.