News / Asia

Tens of Thousands in Hong Kong Mark Tiananmen Anniversary

People hold candles under heavy rain as tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil to mark the 24th anniversary of the June 4 Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013.
People hold candles under heavy rain as tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil to mark the 24th anniversary of the June 4 Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013.
Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents braved torrential rain to attend a candlelight vigil marking the 24th anniversary of Beijing's deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square.

Organizers of Tuesday's annual vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park claimed a turnout of 150,000 people, while police gave a smaller estimate of 54,000.  

Some of those who gathered in the park left when the rains started, but many stayed, huddling under umbrellas and chanting slogans calling on China's Communist leaders to vindicate the 1989 protest movement in Beijing's main square.

Chinese troops backed by tanks crushed the student-led demonstration on June 4 of that year, killing hundreds and possibly thousands of people. Beijing considers the protest to be a "counter-revolutionary rebellion" and blocks annual attempts by pro-democracy activists to commemorate the killings.

  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil under heavy rain at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013 to mark the 24th anniversary of the Chinese military crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Beijing.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013.
  • Bodies lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 file photo.
  • Student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, 1989.
  • A man stands in front of a replica of the Goddess of Democracy at Victoria Park in Hong Kong, June 4, 2013.
  • Tens of thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park, June 4, 2013


Exercising freedoms

Residents of the former British colony of Hong Kong have retained the right to protest since it returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997.  

The chairwoman of Hong Kong's main opposition Democratic Party, Emily Lau, was at the latest vigil, organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.  Speaking to VOA by phone, she said many locals still have strong emotions about the Tiananmen crackdown.

"They really feel that China should move forward, should have an investigation to set this whole thing to rest," Lau said. "So, in a way, the Hong Kong people are very, very persistent.  Twenty-four years is a very long time, and these people keep turning up every year and they keep giving money to the Patriotic Alliance."

Abrupt end

The rainstorm forced organizers to end Tuesday's rally after 50 minutes, the first time it has been cut short. Lau was among those who ran for cover.

"We were all drenched," she said. "It was pouring down with rain.  It was like a river flowing.  Some people left.  I left early too because we got so completely soaked.  But there were lots and lots of people going in, and all the football pitches were filled up, and they had to move over to the grass land."

Speakers at the vigil also vowed to keep fighting against what they see as Beijing's attempt to slow Hong Kong's progress toward universal suffrage for the city's leader and legislature in the coming years.

Turnout estimates for last year's event ranged from 180,000 people, as claimed by organizers, to 85,000 as reported by police.

Tiananmen Square, BeijingTiananmen Square, Beijing
x
Tiananmen Square, Beijing
Tiananmen Square, Beijing
In Beijing, police were on guard for possible protests at Tiananmen Square and other prominent areas.

Many Chinese activists already had been detained, placed under house arrest or monitored closely in the lead-up to the sensitive anniversary.

Chinese government censors also tried to block any reference to the anniversary on social media sites.  China's popular Sina Weibo service even removed a candle icon to prevent subscribers from displaying it as part of a digital vigil.

Leaders scrutinized

Lau said such actions have tarnished the image of the new Chinese Communist rulers who took office last November in a once-in-a-decade leadership transition.

"The impression is that the new leadership is very, very tough and, in fact, things are getting from bad to worse," Lau said.  "So it is exceedingly disappointing, because some people thought that President Xi Jinping is going to be some kind of reformist.  But I guess all those dreams have been dashed.  Nevertheless, the people still want to soldier on, because they want to see a democratic China."

Earlier this year, Xi called for more "political courage" to deepen reform in China and said the ruling party must improve its policies to "benefit more people in a fairer way."

But he also said the process of "opening up" the state is a "long-term, arduous and onerous cause which needs efforts from generation to generation."

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Wangchuk from: NYC
June 06, 2013 4:31 PM
HK residents are still free to protest but millions of Chinese in the mainland cannot protest or commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre. China censors reports about the protests and prevents Chinese people from publicly discussing 6/4/89. There can be no true progress until the CCP allows freedom of expression in China as well as Hong Kong.

by: Thuong from: San Jose
June 05, 2013 2:44 AM
Comminist is always Communist.

Never see democratic China when ever communist party is still in power.
Could have been more students to get killed if the protest were still.

by: Stephen Real from: Columbia USA
June 04, 2013 8:21 PM
These cats in Hong Kong walk the walk. How cool is that

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More