Tens of thousands of Hong Kong protesters raised candles in the air and sang solemn songs yesterday as they marked the 16th anniversary of China's bloody crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations.
In Beijing, security was tight and there were no signs of public commemorations on the giant square, where the 1989 student-led protests ended when soldiers and tanks attacked, killing hundreds of people.
China's Communist Party has eased many of the social controls that spurred the student-led Tiananmen protests, but the government still crushes protests against the event -- or any activity that it worries might threaten its monopoly on power.
But in Hong Kong, people holding candles filled up an area the size of five soccer fields at Victoria Park -- the only large-scale protest on Chinese soil. Organizers estimated that 30,000 to 40,000 joined the annual vigil.
Henry Ho, 19, a Hong Kong University student, said, "It's not so much about remembering as it is about the right to know the truth about what happened that night and to fight for Chinese democracy."
"If the Chinese government can say what happened that night and can say that they're sorry, it can show that they are not the same government from the past,"Ho said.
Many feel a duty to speak out because they have freedoms of speech and assembly that don't exist on the mainland.
Banners and signs said, "Don't forget June 4," "Democracy fighters live forever," and "Using history as proof."
Vigil organizer Lee Cheuk-yan (
But Donald Tsang (曾蔭權), the front-runner campaigning to become the territory's next leader, on Saturday urged the public to be rational about the event, saying China has made great strides in improving its economy and people's livelihood.
"I had shared Hong Kong people's passion and impetus when the June 4 incident happened. But after 16 years, I've seen our country's impressive economic and social development," Tsang said. "My feelings have become calmer."
In Beijing yesterday, the government tightened security -- as it usually does around June 4 -- at Tiananmen Square, where tourists were watched by extra carloads of police and paramilitary troops. There was no hint of public mention of the event.
The anniversary, always sensitive for communist leaders, is especially touchy this year because it is the first since the death in January of Zhao Ziyang (
A retired senior Chinese official, Li Pu, also called on Beijing to vindicate the 1989 pro-democracy movement, which was branded a "counterrevolutionary riot" by the Communist leadership.
"The students made big mis-takes, but the government's military crackdown was even worse. It was extremely wrong to send troops against ordinary people," Li, former vice president of China's official Xinhua News Agency and a friend of Zhao's, said in an interview with Hong Kong's government-owned radio RTHK. "History will give Zhao Ziyang justice. Some years later, June 4 must be vindicated."