Chinese authorities have stepped up security around Tiananmen Square, a reminder of the government’s attempts to quash any memories of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests 30 years ago.
Extra checkpoints and street closures greeted tourists who arrived before 5am to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony.
A guard marched across a barricaded road and raised the Chinese flag as the national anthem played.
Hundreds, if not thousands of people are believed to have been killed in Beijing in 1989 when the government sent in the military to clear Tiananmen Square of protesters in an operation that began on the night of June 3 and ended the following morning.
For many Chinese people, the 30th anniversary of the crackdown will pass like any other day.
Any commemoration of the event is not allowed in mainland China, and the government has blocked access to information about it on the internet.
When asked by foreign journalists, the government defends its actions on that night by pointing to the country’s economic success since then.
“The tremendous achievements in China’s development in the past 70 years have fully proven that the development path we have chosen is completely correct,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily briefing on Monday.
Analysts say the crackdown set the ruling Communist Party on a path of repression and control that continues to this day.
Thousands are expected to turn out on Tuesday night for a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong, which has greater freedoms under a one country, two systems principle since the return of the former British colony to China in 1997.
Meanwhile, China is keeping up its practice of removing dissidents from contact around sensitive political dates.
Individuals whose views are considered threatening are typically taken for what are euphemistically called “vacations” far from home. Others are placed under house arrest or their movements and communications are curtailed.
Half a dozen activists could not be reached by phone or text on Tuesday, and one who responded, Beijing-based Hu Jia, said he was taken to the eastern coastal city of Qinghuangdao on May 30 by security agents.
Though he was able to answer the phone, guards were by his side and he was only able to say a few words. “This is a reflection of their fears, their terror, not ours,” he said.
Rights groups said special restrictions were also placed on members of the Tiananmen Mothers group, including Zhang Xianling, 81, and Ding Zilin, 82, whose sons were killed in the military assault.