Hong Kong remembers Tiananmen Massacre

Tens of thousands join vigil for 26th commemoration of China’s crushing of pro-democracy protests

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Divided Hong Kong residents held a candlelight vigil to commemorate the anniversary of China's crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square on Thursday.

Tens of thousands took part in vigil as the Chinese-run city is still tense and divided after last year's student-led "Occupy Central" protests demanding full democratic suffrage.

Hong Kong is due to vote on a Beijing-proposed election blueprint on June 17 that will allow Hong Kongers to vote for their next leader, as long as candidates are first approved by a Beijing-backed committee. Pro-democracy activists want a leader chosen by universal suffrage, rather than from a list of pro-Beijing candidates.

The demonstrations were one of the boldest populist challenges to Beijing's rule since the former British colony returned to Chinese control in 1997, under a principle of "one country, two systems" allowing it broad autonomy and more freedom. But China insists on determining Hong Kong's rulers.

The victims of the Tiananmen crackdown also protested for democratic rights for more than nine weeks when the Chinese army sent tanks to disperse them on June 4, 1989. During the crackdown, hundreds - or according to some rights groups and witnesses, thousands - were killed and thousands of others were arrested. Some of the arrested are still serving jail time for their participation in the protests.

Security is tight in the central Beijing square where the massacre took place. Police dragged away a middle-aged woman holding a plastic rose as she yelled "Why won't you let me go? Because you are thugs," according to Reuters.

The Tiananmen Square Massacre is remembered in Hong Kong every year, but this is the first time the commemorations have involved mass protests against Chinese rule. This year's vigil will also be an opportunity to remember the Hong Kong democracy protests, with protesters putting a yellow umbrella (the symbol of the Hong protests) on a statue of a goddess of democracy, the symbol of the Tiananmen Square students.

Yellow umbrellas are also being held by protesters in Taiwan, where China's shadow also creates tension, in solidarity with Hong Kong.

"This is an ongoing struggle for justice," Richard Tsoi of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which has organised the Hong Kong vigil, told AFP.

China censors debate over the Tiananmen Square Massacre and talks about the “1989 incident,” blocking "June 4" and "Tiananmen Square" searches on the Internet. The government describes the incident as a "counter-revolutionary riot."

TRTWorld and agencies