HONG KONG - A candlelit vigil was held in Hong Kong Monday night to commemorate the victims of the June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. The number of participants at the annual event appeared larger than in recent years, as more mainland Chinese traveled to the semi-autonomous city to attend.
Although officials dispute the numbers, organizers say 180,000 people gathered in Hong Kong to honor the student democracy activists who were killed in Tiananmen Square 23 years ago.
The Tiananmen crackdown is all but expunged from official Chinese history. Even though Hong Kong was a British colony in 1989, remembering the June 4 massacre is integral to local values, says theater director Lo Ching-man.
“We share the same blood," she said. "We shared the same agony [when] we saw our own people being shot.”
According to pro-democracy legislator and vigil organizer Lee Cheuk-yan, this year saw one of the biggest turnouts in recent times.
“I think the record turnout is because there are many mainlanders," he said. "In China, they cannot commemorate June 4, so they are coming over to Hong Kong. I am sure there will be more interaction between Hong Kong people and our mainland compatriots. Together, we will fight for a more democratic future.”
Theater director Lo Ching-man says attendance at the vigil is likely boosted by concerns in Hong Kong that a new government headed by Leung Chun-ying will roll back democratic freedoms the city enjoys as a semi-autonomous part of China.
“We rationally understand we are Chinese, but emotionally want our own independence, our own thought," Lo said. "[Hong Kong] is like a young son trying to live in his own way, not always under his father’s control, but we do know we have a father.”
Information about the vigil was disseminated over the Internet. But terms such as "June 4," "candle" and "never forget" were blocked for Hong Kong users of Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular microblogging platforms.