Tens of thousands in Hong Kong yesterday marked the bloody 1989 crackdown on democracy protests in Beijing, as agitation against China’s stewardship intensifies in the ex-British colony.
The candle-lit vigil came after a week of controversy in Hong Kong, with 13 activists arrested last Saturday after clashing with police over their attempt to erect a Goddess of Democracy statue in the Times Square shopping district.
The statue emulated the papier-mache edifice that in 1989 became a worldwide symbol of the pro-democracy protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, which were crushed by the army at the cost of hundreds if not thousands of lives.
The annual vigil in Hong Kong, which last year drew upwards of 150,000 people for the 20th anniversary, has become a touchstone for a movement calling for democracy in China and for Beijing to reverse its official verdict condemning the demonstrations as a counter-revolutionary uprising.
Wuer Kaixi (吾爾開希), one of the best-known student leaders of the Tiananmen protests, was arrested yesterday after entering the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, Japanese media reports said.
In central Beijing, black cars marked “special police” — each manned with two armed officers wearing helmets and flak jackets — were seen patrolling at regular intervals.
However, near the vast square itself, the police presence was far less heavy than for last year’s 20th anniversary. One taxi driver said he was unaware of the anniversary.
“I was 15 at the time, but I didn’t see much and in the past 21 years, no one has really raised the issue,” he said, asking not to be named. “But to be honest, Chinese people don’t care about politics, they just care about living.”
Organizers hoped that at least 50,000 people would attend the evening vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park late yesterday, one-third of last year’s turnout.