• News
  • Jun 05, 2024

Hong Kong Artist Detained After June 4 Commemoration

Portrait of SANMU CHAN

On the night of June 3, ahead of the 35th anniversary of the 1989 crackdown on student-led protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, the performance artist Sanmu Chan (Chen Shi Sen) was detained by police in the Causeway Bay neighborhood of Hong Kong over a brief gesture. 

Chan wrote out the numbers “8964” in the air with his hands and mimed pouring liquid and taking a sip (interpreted as a reference to the Chinese ritual of pouring wine on a grave) before he was surrounded and taken away by police officers. Hong Kong reporters witnessed the brief performance. Chan was subsequently released and, on the morning of June 4, posted an image of a candle and a calendar in front of a window. 

Since the establishment of the National Security Law in 2020, Hong Kong has effectively banned the public commemorations of June 4, including the candlelight vigil that used to be held annually in Victoria Park. This year, after the passage of the Article 23 security law in March, the Hong Kong media reported several people were detained for a variety of causes, from turning on the flashlight on their phones (even accidentally, in the case of an elderly mainland Chinese tourist), to carrying a book on Xi Jinping’s philosophy of governance and sporting a Che Guevara shirt. A Japanese tourist who performed a Buddhist ritual for the dead was also taken in for questioning. 

In 2023, Chan was one of nearly two-dozen people arrested for “seditious intention and disorderly conduct” and “breaching public peace” during the weekend of June 3–4. He was previously detained and interrogated by police in China after crossing to the mainland over his participation in the 2019 protests in Hong Kong. Chan also has a long history of staging public demonstrations: the South China Morning Post documented an action of his in 2003 in which he stood outside a Guangzhou police station with his head wrapped in a local newspaper after the death of a student held in custody. 

Subscribe to ArtAsiaPacific’s free weekly newsletter with all the latest news, reviews, and perspectives, directly to your inbox each Monday.