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Hong Kong Protesters Commemorate 1989 Tiananmen Square Pro-Democracy Movement - 2003-06-01

Hundreds of Hong Kong residents marched to commemorate a failed Chinese democracy movement, and to protest new legislation they fear will curtail the city's freedoms. The government says the anti-subversion laws should be introduced to protect national integrity. Human rights activists and religious leaders led several hundred marchers through Hong Kong's Central district on Sunday. The group gathered in part to remember the student pro-democracy movement in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989. The Chinese government sent in the army and used tanks to crush the movement on June 4, 1989.

The Hong Kong marchers also were protesting anti-subversion legislation expected to be approved by the city's legislature in the coming weeks.

Lawmaker Lee Chuek Yan told Hong Kong's Cable Television on Sunday that the laws banning subversion, secession and treason could backfire. He said that if Hong Kong residents lose their right to express themselves through protest or religion, there could be social upheaval in the city.

Hong Kong's government has promised that freedoms will be protected. The administration says the anti-subversion laws are meant to safeguard mainland China from groups or people aiming to undermine the central government.

The government is required to pass the anti-subversion laws under Article 23 of the city's constitution. Beijing demanded that Article 23 be inserted in the constitution before control of Hong Kong passed from Britain to China in 1997. Many residents fear the proposed laws are too vague and could be used to suppress groups or media outlets that Beijing dislikes.

The leader of Hong Kong's Roman Catholic community, Bishop Joseph Zen, has been among the strongest critics of the new laws. He worries that Hong Kong's ties with some Catholics in mainland China could be outlawed - as many worshipers do not belong to China's state-aproved churches. Those outside the sanctioned churches are considered to be criminals in China.

Hong Kong members of the Falun Gong religious movement, which is banned in mainland China, have similar concerns.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese sovereignty after 150 years of British colonial rule. The city's government and judicial system remain separate from mainland China. It retains freedom of speech and press, and a capitalist economic system.