HONG KONG - A planned museum dedicated to the brutal crackdown on China's Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests has run into a legal challenge in Hong Kong that some say is motivated by pro-China interests ahead of the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed.
The former British colony of Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but remains a free-wheeling, capitalist hub whose annual candlelight vigils on June 4 set it apart from mainland China where all public commemorations are banned.
Discussion of the Tiananmen Square crackdown is still taboo in China, where on June 3 and June 4, 1989, its leaders ordered troops to open fire on demonstrators and sent in tanks to crush a student-led campaign movement, killing hundreds.
But 17 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China, a bid to establish the world's first permanent museum dedicated to the crackdown in an 800-sq-ft, fifth-floor unit in a commercial tower has been opposed by the owners' committee.
The row could escalate into a broader headache for Beijing amid rising resentment over China's tightening control over the city's affairs and calls for universal suffrage.
The ability of Hong Kong residents to debate the June 4 crackdown remains a potent symbol of the city's freedoms and civil liberties relative to Communist Party-ruled China.
The museum, now being renovated by construction workers and due to open in late April, will feature photographs, a goddess of democracy and other documentary materials chronicling the crackdown.
The Chinese demonstrators built the goddess statue as a symbol of their struggle and it has been replicated at June 4 anniversaries in Hong Kong.
An owner's committee of the Foo Hoo Centre where the museum is located, voted last Wednesday to bar it from opening, claiming in a legal document seen by Reuters that units should only be used for offices.