A luxury auction house has pulled the sale of a watch awarded to Chinese troops responsible for the Tiananmen Square massacre following threats online.
Fellows, the UK auctioneers withdrew the lot, which was part of a mass auction of luxury timepieces, after a backlash about its sale.
The watch, featuring the text “89.6 to commemorate the quelling of the rebellion” drew criticism over the ethics of selling an item with its history.
The company said: “Threats made on social media against the owner of this watch have caused the vendor to express concerns about their safety.
“We have taken the decision to remove this watch from auction.”
Fellows told the Guardian that threats were received digitally and that one person had suggested the piece was “admissible evidence” and that the owner should be “traced and tried for the massacre.”
Fellows said that the watch had been “left in a cupboard for many years” and their investigations into its history found that “to the best of our knowledge, the vendor is not associated with the PLA [People’s Liberation Army], nor the Chinese government”.
The massacre of student protestors at Tiananmen Square and the surrounding area is thought to have killed up to thousands of people.
The Chinese government maintains that fewer than two dozen were killed, and has been involved in suppressing information about the event to its population.
Internet searches for the massacre made within the country have often been met with censored results.
In its later statement, Fellows said the watch was “of international interest”, and in the past it had sold items from all sides of global conflicts. “It is not our place to comment on events of the past. It is important for us to shine a light on historic events and report upon them in a respectful and unbiased manner,” it said.