Hong Kong pro-democracy activists are preparing to stage a huge candlelight vigil in the city's Victoria Park to mark the 25th anniversary of Beijing's deadly crackdown on student protesters in Tiananmen Square.
Many residents of the autonomous Chinese territory have been attending the annual June 4th vigil for years, but the turnout for this year's event is expected to be among the biggest to date.
Hong Kong authorities and most citizens support the right of the activists to commemorate the crackdown, something that is forbidden on the other side of the city's border with mainland China.
However, Hong Kong's two main political camps have differing views on the significance of the anniversary.
James Tien is the leader of the pro-establishment Liberal Party and one of 43 pro-Beijing lawmakers in the territory's 70-seat Legislative Council, or Legco. He expressed his feeling about the anniversary in a phone interview with VOA.
"I think Hong Kong people are taking this in a different manner than most of the mainland people we have met. In mainland China, my feeling is that the majority of the old generation or the current generation has been looking at the way China has developed in the past 25 years, how their livelihood has got that much better, how their levels of democracy and human rights have got that much better.
“Only in Hong Kong [do] we still have a lot of people reminiscing [about] what happened 25 years ago. I’m one of the Hong Kong people, and we have our right to protest and remember that tragedy 25 years ago. So there will be marches and there will be gatherings that will be mainly in Hong Kong. In fact, a lot of tourists from the mainland coming to Hong Kong look at our sit in on that day and say, 'well, we're not doing that in China, it's good that you still have that in Hong Kong in remembering that tragedy.’
“I think Beijing’s view is, that [incident] is something in the past. Did they (Chinese authorities) do the right thing or not? They probably think they did the right thing, because otherwise [they would say] Hong Kong's government and the ruling party [of China] and the economy and the livelihood of the people would not be like today. Now, what would it be [like] if that [1989 incident] took a different turn 25 years ago? No one would know.
“But most people in China will feel that, 'ah, today is much better than 25 years ago.' And the point about the tragedy on June 4th of 1989 [is that] in China [it] is not as well remembered as in Hong Kong," said Tien.
Emily Lau is one of 27 pro-democracy lawmakers in Legco and leads the Democratic Party, one of its two main pro-democracy factions. In a separate phone conversation with VOA, she gave her take on Hong Kong's mood as the anniversary approaches.
"I think many Hong Kong people [and] many people elsewhere have not forgotten the massacre. And I think we are all very glad that although Hong Kong is now a Chinese city, we can still have the freedom to commemorate the people who lost their lives and also to help to push for [their] rehabilitation. And I’m quite sure many people will turn out this year to attend the Victoria Park candle light vigil. And I hope they will collectively send a very powerful signal to Beijing about this whole incident. And we hope that there would be recognition of this fact [and] an investigation, and [we hope] to push for reconciliation, and of course, to push for compensation for the victims' families.
“But I noticed there are groups, also calling themselves 'democrats', [who are] saying that we should not go to Victoria Park, [that] we should do other things. And there are also editorials in newspapers saying that we should jettison the 'baggage' of June 4 and just leave it to the people of mainland China [to deal with]. So there are many different views.
“If there are good things that the Chinese government has done [in recent years], we would like to see it. Many of us have been banned from travelling to mainland China for more than 20 years. I myself have been banned. And within the Legislative Council, where we have 70 members, at least seven have been banned for more than two decades. So that is a very, very big problem, banning the elected representatives of Hong Kong people. So if there are good things, we will not deny them. But if they (Chinese authorities) have made mistakes, they should come out and have the honesty to admit them and to find remedies," she said.