Migration – Hong Kongers eye British citizenship but fear retaliation from China | Britain

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Hong Kongers call US violence a setback for democracy

Hong Kong residents from across the political spectrum are condemning mob violence at the U.S. Capitol, 18 months after protesters stormed their own legislature to demand greater democracy, not the overthrow of election results

Those in Hong Kong’s pro-Beijing establishment also denounced the violence, calling it a possible insurrection.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol came one day after Hong Kong authorities arrested 53 pro-democracy activists, accusing them of subversion over allegations they sought to elect lawmakers who would hamstring the Legislative Council’s work and force the resignation of Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

The violence in Washington weakened arguments for American democratic values, said Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy activist and one of the organizers of an annual vigil commemorating the bloody crackdown on student-led pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

“It’s very sad for us in Hong Kong to see mobs attacking Capitol Hill and trying to overthrow the election results. We in Hong Kong are fighting for a democracy in which everyone has a right to vote,” Lee said. “But when we look at the U.S., it’s now a subversion of the will of the people by violence.”

Lee said the U.S. has now become a “laughingstock.”

“The most damaging part is that the democratic world has been weakened, and when that happens it strengthens the hand of authoritarian rulers from all over the world,” he said.

Hong Kong experienced months of anti-government protests in 2019 against proposed legislation that would have allowed suspects in the semi-autonomous city to be sent to mainland China for trial. The bill was withdrawn but the protesters’ demands morphed into calls for greater democracy and other reforms that were rejected by the government amid increasing violence between demonstrators and police.

The July 1-2, 2019, attack on the Legislative Council, in which protesters occupied and defaced the chamber and offices, was seen as a turning point that hardened opinions on both sides.

“At least in the U.S., their elections are fair. In Hong Kong, elections are canceled,” said Leslie Chan, a district councilor in Hong Kong, referring to a year-long postponement of the city’s legislative elections by Lam, who cited public health risks from the coronavirus.

Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp accused the government of postponing the vote to prevent the opposition from gaining seats.

Beijing’s backers in the territory criticized the U.S. violence as a sign of a breakdown in law and order and respect for the government.

Pro-Beijing lawmaker Regina Ip called the use of violence in an attempt to overturn an electoral outcome “very serious” and said such acts could be seen as an insurrection.

Ip, a former Hong Kong secretary for security, said some U.S. politicians had dismissed the storming of Hong Kong’s legislature as something “not to be taken seriously.”

“Our police were accused of brutality, but their police have used much more force. They’ve already killed one person,” she said. One protester was shot inside the Capitol during Wednesday’s violence, while three other people died from medical emergencies.

“So I think this is a clear example of how we all live in glass houses, don’t throw stones. They lived in a glass house and they kept throwing stones at ours,” she said.

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China warns Canada against granting Hong Kongers sanctuary

A top Chinese diplomat warned Canada Thursday against granting asylum to Hong Kong democracy protesters, adding that doing so could jeopardize the “health and safety” of Canadians living in the southern Chinese financial hub.

The remarks by Cong Peiwu, Beijing’s Ottawa envoy, prompted a rebuke from Canada’s foreign minister, further escalating tensions between the two countries.

Cong was responding to reports that a Hong Kong couple who took part in last year’s huge and sometimes violent protests had been granted refugee status.

The landmark decision makes it likely other Hong Kongers will be given sanctuary in Canada, which has emerged as a top destination for those fleeing Beijing’s crackdown.

“We strongly urge the Canadian side not (to) grant so-called political asylum to those violent criminals in Hong Kong because it is the interference in China’s domestic affairs. And certainly, it will embolden those violent criminals,” Cong said in a video press conference.

“So if the Canadian side really cares about the stability and the prosperity in Hong Kong, and really cares about the good health and safety of those 300,000 Canadian passport-holders in Hong Kong, and the large number of Canadian companies operating in Hong Kong SAR, you should support those efforts to fight violent crimes,” Cong said.

When asked by reporters if that latter comment was a threat, Cong replied: “That’s your interpretation.”

Canada’s Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne described Cong’s comments as “totally unacceptable and disturbing”.

“I have instructed Global Affairs to call the ambassador in to make clear in no uncertain terms that Canada will always stand up for human rights and the rights of Canadians around the world,” he said in a statement carried by the Globe and Mail and other Canadian news outlets.

China and Canada are marking 50 years since they forged diplomatic ties — but those relations are deeply strained.

Ties plummeted following Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecoms giant Huawei and daughter of its founder.

Meng was arrested on a US warrant in December 2018 during a stopover in Vancouver and is charged with bank fraud related to violations of US sanctions against Iran. 

She has been fighting extradition ever since.

Canadian former diplomat Michael Kovrig and businessman Michael Spavor were arrested in China on spying charges soon afterwards, disappearing into Beijing’s opaque judicial system.

Western governments see the detention of the two Canadians as direct retaliation by Beijing. 

On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hit out at Beijing for what he said was its “coercive diplomacy” as well as the ongoing crackdowns in Hong Kong and on Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang. 

Cong rejected Trudeau’s comments at his Thursday press conference. 

“There is no coercive diplomacy on the Chinese side,” he said.

“The Hong Kong issue and the Xinjiang-related issue are not about the issue of human rights. They are purely about internal affairs of China, which brooks no interference from the outside,” he added.


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Canada Awaits Arrival of Hong Kongers With Canadian Passports

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – More than 300,000 Hong Kongers are believed to hold Canadian passports, and while Canada has yet to join Britain, Australia and Taiwan in making it easier for Hong Kong residents to immigrate or seek asylum because of a harsh new security law for the partly autonomous Chinese territory, Ottawa is waiting to see how many will show up.

The Canadian government has so far not proposed any changes to its immigration policies for Hong Kong residents, but it has joined other countries in their criticisms of the new security law. Ostensibly meant to combat terrorism, separatism and sedition, the new law could be used to criminalize almost all dissent in Hong Kong, its critics say.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also suspended an extradition treaty between Canada and Hong Kong, to the dismay of China’s embassy in Ottawa.

Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents took advantage of favorable Canadian immigration laws in the mid-1990s, investing in property and starting businesses to secure citizenship as a hedge against an uncertain future after Britain returned its former colony to China in 1997. Both those programs have since been canceled, Canadian immigration attorney David Cohen said.

For younger people, the laws offered a chance to finish high school in Canada and continue a sought-after English-language education at a university in the West on a study visa, a lengthy route to citizenship. After becoming established in Canada, many returned to Hong Kong to pursue business opportunities and raise families of their own.

Many of those who remained settled in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where large communities of Hong Kong expatriates are thriving. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, there have been multiple flights every week from Hong Kong to Vancouver and Toronto.

Although it has been just weeks since the new security law took effect on June 30, Richard Kurland, a Vancouver-based immigration lawyer and policy analyst, said some of those who acquired the right to live in Canada in the 1990s or earlier are beginning to look into selling property in Hong Kong to finance the immigration of their children to Canada.

“People are making plans to dispose of some property assets that were acquired 30, 40 years years ago, which today are worth a lot more, as capital to bring the child or children to Canada,” he said. “The feeling now is with the introduction of Beijing’s new security law, that the future is brighter in Canada in terms of lifestyle, and long-term goals for the Hong Kongers who do not want to live in an all-China Hong Kong.”

But Kurland said he does not expect to see a massive influx from Hong Kong unless the current situation there deteriorates. However, in the short term, he sees more students coming to Canada to study, unless the coronavirus pandemic makes that impossible.

Wenran Jiang is an adviser for the Asian Program at the Institute for Peace and Diplomacy in Toronto. Speaking from his Alberta Province home in Edmonton, he said that if the purpose of the new security law is simply to reduce foreign influence in Hong Kong, the flow of immigration across the Pacific may not change much.

Jiang said that immigration from Hong Kong, and more recently from mainland China, has given Canada an economic boost, particularly in the Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets.

“The immigration from Hong Kong and (in more) recent years from the Chinese mainland have contributed significantly … to both the growth of Vancouver and Toronto real estate markets, among other cities, and the economic contributions are significant,” Jiang said. “But at the same time, we also know after 1997, many of the immigrants from Hong Kong, although they are having the Canadian passports, they do not really invest here or even live here. They go back to Hong Kong.”

But now, he said, many of those may come back to Canada to stay if the new security law results in a significant shake-up in Hong Kong, which reverted to Chinese control in 1997 after 156 years of British rule.

One of the early immigrants from Hong Kong was Vancouver talk show host Ken Tung, who came to Canada with his wife in 1980. Since then, Tung said he has seen Hong Kong residents follow him across the Pacific for a host of reasons, most importantly the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 and the handover to China in 1997.

A frequent critic of the Chinese government and its new security law for Hong Kong, Tung says Canada should speed up the process of granting asylum to those claiming to be hurt by the law.

The “government of Canada should open the heart, open the arms to have the background check,” Tung said. “And (it) should accept them as a resident of Canada rather than waiting one and a half years to go through the board, go through our process. I think if this (is for) young people, (there’s) a good chance that they will become a contributing Canadian, too.”

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Hong Kongers are suddenly the world’s most sought-after emigrants

On Friday, one of Hong Kong’s most prominent pro-democracy activists announced that he had fled the city two days after Beijing implemented a new national security law in Hong Kong.

“No Hong Konger is under the illusion that Beijing has any intention to respect our basic rights and honor its promises to us,” tweeted Nathan Law, who has been a leading figure in pro-democracy activism since playing a major role in Hong Kong’s 2014 umbrella movement. “So I bade my city farewell.”

Law, who departed for a still-undisclosed location, was perhaps Hong Kong’s first public emigrant of the security law era. Others may follow him.

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Beijing’s new sweeping national security law in Hong Kong aims to arrest and prosecute those accused of jeopardizing China’s national security via subversion, secession, terrorism, or collusion with foreign forces. Critics see it as undercutting Hong Kong’s promised autonomy, squelching anti-Beijing protests, and snuffing out the free, civil society that’s set Hong Kong apart from its mainland peers.

Since Beijing introduced the law in May, thousands of Hong Kongers have applied for foreign immigration documents; immigration consultants in Hong Kong report that caseloads have doubled since the legislation’s proposal.

A man looks across the harbor towards the Hong Kong island skyline in 2019. Hong Kong residents considering leaving the city could have ample options for resettlement as nations vie to welcome them.
DALE DE LA REY/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong is especially ripe for a mass exodus given its sizable population of dual passport holders. In the city of 7.5 million, for instance, 90% of the city’s 300,000 Canadian passport holders are estimated to also hold dual Hong Kong and Canadian passports.

As some Hong Kongers consider leaving, a growing number of countries are preparing to receive them. Since the law’s introduction, at least five nations have taken steps to welcome individuals and families departing Hong Kong. Nearly all the measures are framed as acts of goodwill, but most of the countries coming forward are also at odds with China’s central government. Offering refuge may benefit Hong Kongers, but it’s also another means of dealing a blow to Beijing.

Here’s where the five measures stand:


Hong Kong’s former colonizer is the furthest along in offering a route for Hong Kong citizens to permanently emigrate from the city.

On Wednesday, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said his government will move forward with plans to give up to 3 million Hong Kong citizens a chance to gain British citizenship. The U.K. government has said further details of the law will be provided “in due course.”

The policy will be focused on Hong Kong’s British National Overseas (BNO) population. BNOs are Hong Kong residents who applied for the status before the 1997 handover, and previously had the right to go to the U.K. for six months without visas. Now, the U.K. government says BNOs will be able to live and work in the U.K. for five years and then have the chance to apply for full citizenship.

Currently, there are 350,000 active holders of BNO passports in Hong Kong, and roughly 2.5 million others in Hong Kong are eligible

For its part, China argues that the change in U.K. policy undermines international law and has vowed retribution.

“The British side made an explicit commitment that it will not confer the right of abode to Chinese citizens in Hong Kong who hold BNO travel documents,” Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry, said on Thursday. “China strongly condemns this and reserves the right of further reactions, the consequences of which shall be borne by the British side.”


Hours after the national security law went into effect on Wednesday, a group of bipartisan legislators introduced the Hong Kong Safe Harbor Act, which would force the U.S. state department to give refugee status to Hong Kong residents that had participated in the protests and feared government reprisal.

In a separate bill introduced on Tuesday, U.S. legislators pushed to expedite admission and permanent residency processes for highly-skilled Hong Kongers, a population that includes business owners, holders of advanced degrees, and people who had previously studied in the U.S.

Hong Kongers looking to flee to the U.S., however, may face some delays. Neither of the bills have been passed into law, and the U.S. government has largely put a stop to immigration pathways for the remainder of 2020 due to COVID-19.


On Wednesday, the Taiwanese government set up an office in its capital Taipei that is specifically geared to helping Hong Kong residents migrate to Taiwan. At the office’s Wednesday opening ceremony, Taiwanese officials said they hope to use the office to aid asylum seekers fleeing from persecution in Hong Kong as well as help attract capital and highly-skilled professionals to Taiwan.

“Many things have changed in [Hong Kong] since 1997,” Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen said on Twitter on June 30. “But [Taiwan’s] commitment to supporting [Hong Kongers] who want freedom and democracy has never changed.”

At the ceremony, officials declined to comment on how many asylum cases they have received thus far.

A spokesperson for China’s government has called Taiwan’s actions to provide safe harbor for Hong Kongers as an attempt to “sabotage the prosperity and stability” of Hong Kong and warned that “harboring Hong Kong rioters will only bring problems to Taiwan people.”


At a press conference on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his government was considering offering a “safe haven” to Hong Kong residents fleeing the city. He said the government was considering options similar the U.K.’s offer to provide long-term residency to Hong Kongers and pathways to citizenship.

Morrison’s government hasn’t made a final decision on the policy, but he said on Thursday, “Are we prepared to step up and provide support [to Hong Kongers]? The answer is: Yes.”

In response, China’s spokesperson Zhao warned Australia to “stop interfering in China’s internal affairs with Hong Kong” and should “refrain from going further down the wrong path.”


Japan’s efforts to help Hong Kongers are squarely focused on the city’s financial professionals. In early June, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stressed the need for Japan to attract more financial talent to boost its own economy, and suggested that the government would seek to attract finance employees and other specialized professionals from Hong Kong amid Beijing’s imposition of the national security law.

On Thursday, Abe’s government started to weigh policies that would provide tax breaks and shortcuts to permanent residency status for Hong Kong’s financial professionals.

A history of mass migration

The prospect of mass migration from Hong Kong recalls the city’s pre-handover years. The U.K. and China agreed in 1985 to the 1997 handover that returned Hong Kong to Chinese rule. The years in between saw an exodus of residents from Hong Kong. An estimated 250,000 to 1 million Hong Kongers left the city between 1988 and 1994, averaging 55,000 departures per year, according to the Encylopedia of Immigrant Health. (In the early 1980s, the city averaged 20,000 emigration cases annually.)

In the lead up to the handover, many Hong Kong residents feared that Beijing wouldn’t keep its promises and would crack down on the city’s freedoms and institutions. Some Hong Kongers who left before the handover returned later on, when they saw that Hong Kong largely had retained its autonomy.

The number of Hong Kong emigrants fell in years after the handover to 6,000 to 7,000 during the 2010s, yet Beijing’s new law may spur another outward movement.

More must-read international coverage from Fortune:

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Australia should ‘open our arms’ to Hong Kongers fleeing despotic China

It is appropriate for Australia to lead the charge in opening our arms to Hong Kongers fleeing China’s “broken promises and despotism” according to Liberal Senator James Patterson.

The federal government is considering offering safe haven visas to Hong Kong residents as Beijing officially passes national security laws which criminalize any form of dissidence in the autonomous Chinese territory.

Senator Patterson said China passing the laws pertaining to Hong Kong citizens proves the Chinese Communist Party is willing to “break every single promise” it made to the people of Hong Kong and the world in 1997.

“You’d be hard pressed to find better potential migrants than the people of Hong Kong,” Senator Patterson told Sky News host Paul Murray.

“We should open our arms”.

Image: AP

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China and Britain clash over the fate of Hong Kongers under new security law

China has promised to choose countermeasures towards Britain if it presses forward with ideas to extend citizenship rights to Hong Kongers after Beijing imposed a sweeping protection legislation on the restless monetary hub.

Beijing has confronted a groundswell of criticism from principally Western nations around its final decision to impose a new law outlawing functions of subversion, secession, terrorism and colluding with international forces.

Introducing to concerns, Hong Kong’s influential Bar Association posted a new lawful evaluation warning that the wording of the regulation, which was stored key right up until Tuesday, undermines the city’s independent judiciary and stifles freedoms.

A man is detained and searched by police throughout a rally from the countrywide protection regulation in Hong Kong


Britain explained the law breaches China’s pre-handover “1 Region, Two Systems” guarantee to grant citizens vital liberties, as nicely as judicial and legislative autonomy, right up until 2047.

It has responded by saying programs to allow tens of millions of Hong Kongers with British Nationwide Abroad position to relocate with their families and finally utilize for citizenship.

“We will reside up to our guarantees to them,” international secretary Dominic Raab informed parliament.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab

Uk Overseas Secretary Dominic Raab

PA Media

That move has infuriated Beijing, which says Britain promised not to grant complete citizenship legal rights to Hong Kongers ahead of the 1997 handover.

“If the British facet helps make unilateral changes to the related apply, it will breach its have situation and pledges as very well as worldwide regulation and simple norms governing global relations,” China’s embassy in London stated Thursday.

“We firmly oppose this and reserve the appropriate to choose corresponding steps,” it extra.

Sanctuary phone calls

Britain is not on your own in saying options to provide Hong Kongers sanctuary or enhanced immigration rights as fears multiply around the semi-autonomous city’s upcoming below the new regulation.

On Thursday, Australian leader Scott Morrison mentioned he was “incredibly actively” thinking of offering Hong Kongers safe and sound haven.

Taiwan has opened an office to assistance Hong Kongers wanting to flee, though a proposed monthly bill in the United States giving sanctuary to town people has acquired widespread bipartisan assist.

Beijing claims the law is wanted to quell seething pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong and restore order immediately after a yr of political unrest.

But critics dread it will usher in a new era of political repression presented similar laws are routinely employed to crush dissent on the Chinese mainland.

The legislation has sent panic coursing by the city and rattled the authorized neighborhood in a organization hub that has constructed its standing on the independence and reliability of its courts.

The Bar Affiliation, which represents the city’s barristers, issued a scathing critique of the legislation, stating it dismantles the lawful firewall that has existed among Hong Kong’s judiciary and China’s Communist Occasion-managed courts.

The new countrywide stability offences have been “extensively drawn”, the group explained, and “are able of currently being utilized in a way that is arbitrary, and that disproportionately interferes with basic legal rights, which include the freedom of conscience, expression and assembly”.

It also criticised “the total absence of meaningful session” with Hong Kongers in advance of the law was handed.

Very first arrests

Thousands of citizens defied a protest ban on Wednesday, the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to China, to block streets and voice opposition to the invoice in some of the worst unrest in months.

Police responded with h2o cannon, pepper spray and tear gasoline, arresting virtually 400 individuals.

Hong Kong arrests hundreds protesting new stability regulation

7 officers have been injured, which includes 1 who was stabbed in the shoulder and 3 other people strike by a protester on a motorcycle.

10 folks were arrested beneath the new legislation, illustrating how keeping specific political views experienced become illegal right away.

Most of individuals arrested had been carrying flags or leaflets advocating for Hong Kong independence.

The stability law is controversial for the reason that it radically increases Beijing’s manage around the town.

China claims it will have jurisdiction in excess of some scenarios and has empowered its protection agents to function brazenly inside of Hong Kong for the to start with time, unconstrained by community legislation.

It has also claimed world-wide jurisdiction, indicating the legislation handles countrywide protection offences fully commited overseas, even by foreigners.

Some trials will be held powering closed doors and devoid of juries, while nearby police have been granted sweeping surveillance powers that no lengthier need judicial indicator off.

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Tiananmen anniversary: Hong Kongers mark crackdown despite ban

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Media captionImages from last year’s commemoration in Hong Kong

People across Hong Kong are finding ways to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, despite the official vigil being banned.

On 4 June 1989 troops and tanks opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing – estimates of the dead vary from a few hundred to several thousand.

Tens of thousands of people normally mark the anniversary in Hong Kong.

But this year – as Beijing proposed a new security law for the city – the vigil was banned for virus reasons.

Police told local media that 3,000 riot officers would be deployed to stop smaller or impromptu commemorations.

Hong Kong and Macau are the only parts of China allowed to mark the killings.

On the mainland, references to the crackdown are banned, and the government mentions it rarely – if at all.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s parliament is expected to vote on a controversial national anthem bill – which would make disrespecting the Chinese anthem an offence – on Thursday.

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Media captionTiananmen’s tank man: The image that China forgot

What is planned in Hong Kong on Thursday?

The Hong Kong Alliance – which organises the annual vigil – has published a timetable for a home-based commemoration.

They are asking people to light a candle at 20:00 local time “no matter where you are”, followed by a minute’s silence, songs, and “chanting of slogans”.

They also want to send delegates to Victoria Park in small groups that comply with social-distancing rules.

Groups of up to eight are allowed to gather in Hong Kong under the territory’s virus rules.

But police sources told the South China Morning Post that if different groups gathered for a “common purpose”, they would be moved on.

Some pro-democracy activists marked the anniversary outside a Hong Kong prison on Wednesday evening.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Pro-democracy activists outside the Lai Chi Kok prison on Wednesday

What is the proposed security law?

The Chinese government wants a new security law for Hong Kong, which would make it a crime to undermine Beijing’s authority.

The law could also see China installing its own security agencies in the city for the first time.

Critics fear the law would remove Hong Kong’s freedoms and mean the end of the “one country, two systems” way of life.

They also fear the bill could mean no more Tiananmen Square vigils in Hong Kong – even after the virus threat has eased.

The draft law was passed by China’s rubber-stamp parliament, the National People’s Congress, and will now be fleshed out.

The proposal sparked renewed protests in Hong Kong. When the city last tried to introduce a national security law in 2003, it backed down after public anger.

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Media caption“China has replaced One Country, Two Systems with One Country, One System,” said Mr Trump

What about the national anthem bill?

The national anthem bill is separate to the national security law.

Last month, there was chaos in parliament as pro-Beijing lawmakers attempted to push it through.

It is expected to be approved by the parliament, known as the Legislative Council, on Thursday.

In recent years, the Chinese anthem has been booed more frequently before the Hong Kong national football team’s matches.

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Media captionWhy were Hong Kong fans booing their anthem? (2015 video)

What happened in Tiananmen Square?

Pro-democracy protesters occupied Tiananmen Square in April 1989 and began the largest political demonstration in communist China’s history.

They lasted six weeks, with as many as a million people taking part.

On the night of 3 June tanks moved in and troops opened fire, killing and injuring many unarmed people in and around the square.

With estimates varying from the hundreds to even 10,000, China has never given an official figure for how many people died.

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