Tiananmen Exhibit Is ‘a Symbol of Defiance’

Good morning. It’s Friday. Today we will look at plans for a New York City memorial to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre. We’ll also update you on a legal skirmish over cannabis regulation.

Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

A new exhibition is set to open in Midtown Manhattan memorializing those killed when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters who had gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The exhibit, which will open this month, comes two years after officials in Hong Kong cracked down on commemorations of the Tiananmen Square protests.

The 2,000-square-foot display includes newspaper clippings, letters written to protesters who were sent to jail, a bloodstained banner and a tent. Organizers said they also have many pictures, audio and video that have yet to be displayed.

“We’re much more than a museum, more than any museum, because this is a symbol of defiance,” said David Yu, the executive director of the group that organized the exhibition.

Many of the items in the exhibition — which were displayed in Washington, D.C., last year — are from friends of Zhou Fengsuo, an exiled former protest organizer whose name and picture are on the Chinese government’s 1989 list of the 21 most-wanted students. Since 1989 he has worked closely with political prisoners.

“It is a privilege to be the protector of such sacred memory, the sacred fire for freedom,” Zhou said, adding that it was “certainly very energizing.”

The exhibition follows the shutdown of the Tianamen museum in Hong Kong in June 2021. It also comes after Hong Kong officials removed a statue that memorialized those killed. Two other pieces commemorating the massacre disappeared from Hong Kong university campuses that year, too.

The removal of the memorials in Hong Kong came after Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law on Hong Kong, leading the local government to essentially ban public commemorations of the 1989 killings. In 2022, smaller crowds gathered in Taipei and other cities for candlelight vigils, mourning not only the people slain in 1989, but also the fate of Hong Kong.

Wang Dan, another leader of the student protests in 1989 who spent time in jail for his activism, said in an interview that he wasn’t surprised when the museum in Hong Kong was closed. A founder of the project, he began working to establish a new memorial in New York last year.

I think it’s very important not only for memory,” Wang said. “It has huge significance, especially today,” he said.

“This museum is not only for history, it’s also for present day and for the future,” he said.

Chinese troops killed hundreds, if not thousands, of people in a massacre that crushed a student-led movement for democracy. There is no complete list of those killed during the massacre, but about 200 names have been collected, according to a banner in the Manhattan exhibition. One banner includes the photos of protesters who were on the wanted list, including Zhou.

The exhibition also includes a bloodstained shirt worn by Jiang Lin, a reporter for the Chinese army newspaper who was attacked by police officers when she ventured out to see what was going on at Tiananmen Square. A watch, badge and shirt worn by one of the soldiers is also on display. Near those items is a government book from July 1989 that justified the crackdown.

Many student protesters camped out during the massacre, and one of their sky-blue tents is included in the exhibition. A bloodstained banner, which a teacher used to cover the bullet wounds of a student protester, is on display, as is artwork by a Hong Kong artist depicting the death of the youngest known victim of the massacre: Lu Peng, who was 9 years old.

Wang donated a letter he received while he was in jail from Liu Xiaobo, a writer and dissident who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Wang had been arrested in 1989 after organizing a democratic salon at Peking University in 1988 and promoting the hunger strike in 1989, he said. He was released from jail in 1994, only to be arrested again the following year. Wang spent several more years in jail before he was exiled to the United States in 1998.

“I think for the future of our country, a young generation has kind of an obligation, a responsibility, to do something,” Wang said.

He said that the exhibition was not only for the Chinese diaspora. He said he hoped that Americans, especially high school and college students, would visit to gain an understanding “about the situation in China, because that situation is very important not only for China, but also for the United States.”

The organizers hope to expand the exhibition into a full museum. The group has already raised half a million dollars but would like to raise at least $2 million.

The exhibition is on Sixth Avenue in Midtown. Starting in late June, the public will be able to book reservations online.


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In effect until June 19 (Juneteenth).

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Cannabis shop licensing resumes in Finger Lakes

Credit…Lauren Petracca for The New York Times

New York regulators settled a federal lawsuit this week over how licenses for cannabis dispensaries are awarded, avoiding a lengthy legal battle over residency requirements.

The settlement in Variscite NY One v. New York, approved by the federal court in Albany on Thursday, ends a pause on retail licensing in the Finger Lakes region, including Rochester. In exchange, the company will receive a dispensary license in a future round of approvals.

This was the first of three lawsuits to challenge the state’s recreational-use cannabis program.

The company, in its lawsuit, argued that eligibility criteria requiring applicants to live or have strong ties to New York, and to have a prior marijuana conviction in the state, violated a constitutional doctrine known as the Dormant Commerce Clause, which prohibits states from discriminating against nonresidents in commerce.

The majority owner of Variscite is a Michigan resident named Kenneth Gay, who has filed lawsuits against regulators in Los Angeles and Sacramento challenging similar requirements.

Licensing in some of the state’s most populous areas was stalled for months after the judge presiding over the case issued an injunction blocking regulators from awarding licenses in the five regions where Variscite indicated it was interested in a license. The court later narrowed the ban after regulators said they were considering applicants only for their first choice regions.

The settlement frees up the state to issue 18 licenses in the Finger Lakes area. Some approvals could come as soon as June 15, when the Cannabis Control Board meets again. But retailers face a long road to opening. So far regulators have issued 215 licenses statewide, though only 12 have opened stores or begun making deliveries.


Mose Allison

Dear Diary:

We first heard Mose Allison play in a basement dive in Washington in the 1960s, bought his album “Mose Allison Sings” and became lifelong fans.

He was scheduled to play at City Winery in March 2010. I emailed his wife, Audre, and asked whether Mose would sign my album if we were to bring it to the show.

“Of course Mose will sign your album,” she said.

When we got to City Winery, I asked the manager if I could go backstage to have Mose sign my album.

No, he said, but if you turn around you can ask him right now.

And there he was.

— Brad Henry

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.

Glad we could get together here. Katherine Rosman will be in on Monday. — L.F.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here

Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].


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