On Monday night, tens of thousands of people made their way to Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to take part in the only large-scale public gathering on Chinese soil to remember the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
According to organizers, 115,000 people attended this year’s vigil, marking the 29th anniversary of the bloody events of June 4th, 1989 which left hundreds if not thousands of pro-democracy protesters dead on the streets of China’s capital city. Meanwhile, police put this year’s attendance number at just 17,000.
This rather wide discrepancy is a yearly tradition in Hong Kong. Last year, organizers claimed 110,000 attendees while police said that were a mere 18,000 people in the park.
By either measure, last year’s vigil actually drew the lowest turnout in a decade, heightening concern in the community about how Hong Kong’s young people didn’t really seem to care about the “June 4th Incident.” For comparison, the 2014 event drew 180,000 attendees, according to organizers; and nearly 100,000, according to police.
It was speculated that this year’s turnout might take an additional hit with China’s former top official in Hong Kong, voicing his support for barring Hongkongers from running for office if they chanted slogans like “end one-party dictatorship”—a popular one at the annual vigil.
In addition, for the fourth year in a row almost all university student unions in Hong Kong pledged to boycott his year’s event, with student activists questioning the relevance of the annual vigil and turning more and more of their attention and energy to local concerns, instead of putting their efforts into more ambitious causes like ending one-party rule in China or building a democratic China.
“China’s progress for democracy is really slow, and rather hopeless. If (the democracy movements of China and Hong Kong) are interlinked, wouldn’t that in turn negate Hong Kong’s progress?” Wong Ching-fung, the president of the University of Hong Kong’s student union was quoted as saying last week by the AFP.
At the vigil, attendees lighted candles, sang protest songs, chanted slogans, and watched a video screen which featured images of that night’s bloodshed and messages from those who lost family members to the military crackdown.
According to the South China Morning Post, the event ended with a speech from Jaco Chow Nok-hang, vice-chairman of the League of Social Democrats, who called on Hongkongers to take a larger interest in dissidents on the mainland. “If a regime could deploy armies against its people in the capital city, what would it dare not to do? Those who think they can stay away and safe, they are simply dreaming,” he said.
After Chow’s speech, rain started to fall as attendees held a moment of silence for China’s late Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, along with dissident labor rights activist Li Wangyang, who spent 22 years in prison after participating in the pro-democracy protests in Beijing, only to die a year after being freed, with friends alleging that he was “suicided.”
Check out some photos of the vigil from attendees and reporters below:
JUST IN: Aerial picture of Victoria Park taken by @SCMP_News senior photographer David Wong
— Jeffie Lam (@jeffielam) June 4, 2018
— Natasha Khan (@natashakhanhk) June 4, 2018
— Venus Wu (@wu_venus) June 4, 2018
“I recognized my dead 19 yr old son; on his forehead, he has a freckle just like me” — 72 yr old tiananmen mother pic.twitter.com/kY9U32fj0E
— Jiayang Fan (@JiayangFan) June 4, 2018
“End One Party Rule”: a banner that is both criminal and sacrilegious today on Chinese territory pic.twitter.com/Nee8jEe4xe
— Jiayang Fan (@JiayangFan) June 4, 2018
29 years on, we are still waiting for the arc of history to bend. Here in Hong Kong—the only place on Chinese soil where any sort of public remembrance is possible—we mourn the dead and keep their fight alive. Lest we forget. @HongKongPLG pic.twitter.com/U9oZU4nXNa
— Jason Y. Ng (@jasonyng) June 4, 2018
Organisers say all 6 football pitches of Victoria Park filled up this evening, police put the number far lower. Whatever the official turnout it’s clear the memory of Tiananmen is alive and well in Hong Kong pic.twitter.com/yD5GRcw0Kv
— Britt Clennett (@BrittClennett) June 4, 2018
[Images via hk01.com]