To mark the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on Sunday, tens of thousands held a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, though tens of thousands less than in years past.
Organizers claimed that 110,000 people attended Sunday night’s vigil. While the police put the number at just 18,000, according to the South China Morning Post. Both those figures would be far less than in 2014, when 180,000 people according to organizers (or 99,500 according to police) turned out for the annual commemoration event.
Last year, organizers said that the event drew 125,000 people. 110,000 would be the lowest number since 2008.
SCMP points to boycotts by university student unions and rising localist sentiment to explain the low turnout as the city’s pro-democracy continues to fracture among different parties with different goals following the 2014 Occupy movement.
Chan Ho-tin, convenor of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, told Time that many young people in Hong Kong simply see June 4th as something distant, since they themselves did not experience it, adding that “we don’t think we’re Chinese. So that’s a great difference from those Hong Kong people who continue to attend the [candlelight] vigil.”
Case in point: 24-year-old student union president of the Education University of Hong Kong, Lala Lai, who told Bloomberg: “We should focus on fighting for democracy in Hong Kong under Chinese rule. As a local-born who didn’t witness Tiananmen Square, I wonder why we have to change China.”
With all remembrance events banned on the mainland, the annual vigil, organized since 1990 by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, remains the only place on Chinese soil where the June 4th anniversary can be commemorated in public on a grand scale.
This year’s event carried a bit of added importance as Hong Kong awaits a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping to take part in festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the city’s return to China.
“When Xi Jinping comes, he’ll know the people of Hong Kong have not forgotten,” pro-democracy activist Lee Cheuk-yan told Reuters.
Lee and other attendees hope that the Chinese government will someday reevaluate what happened in Beijing on June 4th, 1989, which China still labels a “counter-revolutionary rebellion.”
“I don’t want this part of history to become blurred,” one office worker who attended the vigil told the Associated Press. “It was really a massacre of people. Those young people came out and did all they could for freedom and democracy but didn’t achieve it.”
Meanwhile, other attendees are trying to keep the memory of Tiananmen alive in the city’s youth. Ken Chiu, a teacher in his thirties, brought his two young children to the vigil, explaining that they had begun to ask him about June 4th. “It’s education through action, to let them know what happened,” Chiu told Time.
[Images via hk01.com / theinitium.com]
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