Tens of thousands of people yesterday braved heavy downpours to mark the 24th anniversary of the “Tiananmen Incident,” a student-led pro-democracy movement that ended in a bloody crackdown in Beijing on June 4, 1989. The annual two-hour vigil in which organizers called on new Chinese President Xi Jinping to improve human rights and embrace democracy was cut short by an hour due to heavy rain. Despite this, most of the participants who packed six soccer fields at Victoria Park chose to stay until a democracy movement song that usually concludes the event was sung. “We will persist to the end. By this, the Communist Party will be scared,” said one participant who called herself Mrs. Shum. Noting that the turnout for the event is closely watched by local and international media every year, another participant Leung Wai-si said, “We use our bodies and flesh to tell others that although 24 years has passed our demand for the vindication of the victims has not diminished.” The organizers, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, estimated 150,000 people took part. The police however estimated the crowd at only 54,000. Before the vigil there was a split over this year’s slogan: “Love the country, love the people.” Some people felt the wording was meant to promote patriotism for China. Lee Cheuk-yan, the alliance chairperson later told reporters at the vigil that the turnout shows that “Hong Kong people can put aside arguments and unite together.” Chan Shu-fai, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Federation of Students, told the crowd that the student-led movement in 1989 was motivated in the name of patriotism. “It is a progressive force. We know the Communist Party twisted its meaning. But why can’t we define our own?” he said. A smaller group of 200 people took part in separate commemoration at a different location. “The alliance’s vigil is the same every year. It fails to attract the younger generation,” said Chan Tzi-chun, the organizer. “We think commemoration of the Tiananmen Incident is not just about casualties but also issues on anti-corruption and the fight for freedom,” said the 27-year-old. Meanwhile, the former mayor of Beijing who was said to have played a major role in the 1989 crackdown has died. Chen Xitong died of cancer on Sunday, the Hong Kong China News Agency said without giving further details. Although credited with supporting the crackdown he was quoted in a book published last year as saying the crackdown could have been avoided and that he regretted the loss of life.
See the multimedia section on the home page for a photo gallery of the vigil in Victoria Park
Thank you. You are now
signed up to our Daily Full