The United States on Wednesday condemned actions by Hong Kong authorities to stifle dissent, calling out attempts to erase memories of the Tiananmen Square massacre as the anniversary nears.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration called the Chinese government's violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, a massacre.
"The United States condemns actions by Hong Kong authorities that prompted organizers to close the June 4th Museum that commemorates the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre," said State Department deputy spokesperson Jalina Porter during a telephone briefing.
"Hong Kong and Beijing authorities continue to silence dissenting voices by also attempting to erase the horrific massacre from history," Porter added.
The State Department's strong comments came as Hong Kong's June 4th Museum said it would temporarily close because of a licensing probe by authorities.
No venue license
Days before the anniversary, Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said the museum had not obtained a public entertainment venue license and was potentially in breach of regulations.
The museum said in a statement that it would close until further notice to protect the safety of staff and visitors, and that further legal advice was needed.
Hong Kong police have cited COVID-19 restrictions in prohibiting an annual vigil to commemorate the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre for the second consecutive year.
Hong Kong's Security Bureau also warned residents not to participate in this year's June 4 vigil, citing penalties of up to five years in prison for those attending and a year in jail for anyone "advertising or publicizing" it.
"The relevant meetings and procession are unauthorized assemblies. No one should take part in it, or advertise or publicize it, or else he or she may violate the law," the Security Bureau said Saturday.
More than three decades ago, student-led pro-democracy protests centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, with corruption among the elite a key complaint of demonstrators. Protesters were also calling for political reforms and a more fair and open society.
Human rights groups believe several hundred to several thousand people were killed when tanks rolled through Tiananmen Square to squelch the demonstrations.
The Chinese Communist Party strictly bans commemorations of the event.