Pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong gathered last night to mark 30 years since China’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, underscoring continuing concern for Chinese human rights in the semi-autonomous territory, even as its own civil liberties are under threat.
The annual vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park near the bustling Causeway Bay shopping district appeared to draw tens of thousands of participants who filled several football fields and held candles in the sultry night air. Following an introduction of songs in the city’s Cantonese dialect and traditional string music, a minute of silence was held for the Tiananmen crackdown victims.
“By being here, I’m standing for truth and justice, even though I’ve no hope the Chinese central government will ever do justice to the protesters,” said participant Stanley Lui, 42.
Beijing transplant Jay Jiang, 16, said unlike many on the mainland, she knew about the crackdown even as a young child. The 10th grader was taking part in the Hong Kong vigil for the first time. “The bottom line is the government should not deceive the people about what happened,” said Jiang, beads of sweat dotting her cheeks.
Estimates of the number of vigil participants varied widely, with police putting the figure at 37,000 and organizers at 180,000.
This year’s vigil featured a replica of the “Goddess of Democracy,” a plaster sculpture of a female figure holding a torch that was displayed in Tiananmen Square in the days leading up to the crackdown, which took place on the night of June 3-4, 1989, and is believed to have killed hundreds and possibly thousands of people.
“That statue was crushed by tanks at the June 4 crackdown, the June 4 massacre. So we are rebuilding this here […] to symbolize that we are still continuing to fight for democracy, and continue on the spirit of the ‘89 democratic protests,” said Chow Hang Tung, vice chair of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organizes the annual event.
Meanwhile, at the University of Hong Kong, a dozen students laid flower bouquets at the “Pillar of Shame,” a sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot commemorating the crackdown’s victims. Students later observed a minute of silence in remembrance of the crackdown’s victims before scrubbing the pillar clean in an annual ritual.
Recent years have witnessed a generational divide about how best to memorialize the crackdown, and since 2015, Hong Kong university students have arranged their own commemorations separate from the main candlelight vigil.
Despite its pro-democracy theme, young Hong Kongers see the vigil as promoting Chinese nationalism, said Samson Yuen, a professor of political science at Hong Kong’s Lingnan University.
“They argue that Hong Kong needs to determine its own future. Hong Kong may need to seek independence from China and they believe that June 4 is a battleground,” Yuen said. MDT/AP