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Hong Kong Students Vote to Condemn Tiananmen Square Violence

  • Kari Jensen

A Hong Kong student union passed a motion calling on Beijing to apologize for the killings of pro-democracy demonstrators 20 years ago. In Hong Kong, Kari Jensen has more.

Two decades after the Tiananmen Square protests ended in violence, University of Hong Kong students condemned China's actions and demanded that Beijing take responsibility.

The students voted ahead of the 20th anniversary of June 4, when China military quashed pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands of protesters.

The subject remains taboo in China, but is openly talked about in Hong Kong, a former British colony that enjoys political freedoms not tolerated on the mainland.

Jenny Ngai, the Student Union acting external affairs secretary, is 22. She says young people should learn about Tiananmen Square.

"The more important matter that is to really learn about what actually happened and not just listen to what others say and not just blindly believe in one set of media. In order to move your country forward, you have to learn about history," she said.

At the University of Hong Kong, almost 93 percent of 2,000 students polled voted in favor of the motion admonishing Beijing.

Hong Kong is the only Chinese city that tolerates Tiananmen Square protests. Democracy activists lead an annual candlelight vigil for the anniversary, which thousands attend.

The pro-democracy protests that led to Tiananmen Square started after former Communist Party leader Hu Yaobang died on April 15, 1989. Mr. Hu was forced from power two years earlier because he favored faster political reforms than did other party leaders.

As usual in China, the anniversary of Mr. Hu's death passed without public notice this year.

However, on April 15, Beijing police detained a high-profile Chinese dissident, Qi Zhiyong, who participated in the Tiananmen Square protests. Other dissidents also report being under increased scrutiny.

Martin Kok, vice president of the Student Union, says students often lead social movements.

"I think this generation in 2009, we hope to continue our role as a leader in this campaign and pass on the torch," he said.

China released its first National Human Rights Action Plan this week. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu says the plan outlines goals and measures to promote and safeguard human rights in the next two years.

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