Thousands of Hong Kong residents held a candlelight vigil Friday night to remember China's 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in and around Tiananmen Square. The demonstration comes amid heightened political tensions in Hong Kong over the Chinese government's recent moves to limit democratic reforms in the former British colony.
Singing songs and raising thin white candles, thousands of people filled Hong Kong's Victoria Park Friday night. They gathered to honor the hundreds, possibly thousands, of pro-democracy students and ordinary citizens killed by Chinese troops in Beijing 15 years ago.
"This is a history we should remember. We should fight until China become a democracy country," said one participant.
"We will not give up, and we will not give in. Long live democracy," said another.
Participants in the annual vigil say it has taken on added significance this year. Pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong are angry over China's recent decision to limit expansion of the popular vote in the territory, which has guaranteed civil liberties not allowed on the Communist-ruled mainland. China has taken an increasingly hard-line toward demands for open elections in the former British colony, after mass protests last summer led to a planned national security law being shelved.
Many residents fear that, if Hong Kong's people persist in pushing for reforms, China might use repressive tactics similar to what occurred in Tiananmen Square 15 years ago.
Organizers of Friday's vigil estimated that 60,000 people had shown up. The police said they would not have a crowd estimate until Saturday.
Nicolas Becquelin is the director of the independent group, Human Rights in China. He says this year's vigil is a reminder for the people of Hong Kong that the communist government in Beijing will ultimately decide their future.
"Fifteen years ago and today, the situation is basically the same," he said. "In a sense, the circle has been completed. Today, there is a sense that these freedoms are threatened in Hong Kong, and that it is because of the nature of the regime in China, and that is the regime that committed the massacre 15 years ago."
Hong Kong's vigil is the only memorial for the slain 1989 protesters allowed on Chinese soil. Tiananmen Square itself was filled with police Friday, on guard against anyone who might attempt to demonstrate.
On July 1 this year, pro-democracy groups will hold a march in Hong Kong to mark the 7th anniversary of the territory's return to Chinese rule. A similar protest last year drew more than half-a-million people, and was the largest political demonstration in China since the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989.