Sat, Jul 03, 2004 - Page 5 News List

HK march brings back memories of Tiananmen

UNIVERSAL SUFFRAGE A man who survived the 1989 protest said he was pleased to see that Hong Kong still clings to the rights that are denied in the rest of China

AP , HONG KONG

One visitor from China who attended Hong Kong's huge march for meaningful voting rights said it brought back memories of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement that was crushed by troops in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

The man, who identified himself only as Yan, said he participated in the student protests in Beijing, where hundreds if not thousands were killed in the crackdown. Yan said he was pleased to see that Hong Kong still clings to the speech rights that are denied in the rest of China.

"This feels like I'm back at the June 4 movement again," Yan said Thursday night as Hong Kong's march was winding down. "You can only experience this kind of feeling in Hong Kong."

Tour operators said the number of mainland visitors slowed to a trickle over the past three days, as the 400 to 600 groups that normally enter each day fell to only about 50 a day. Some democracy activists voiced suspicions that China cut off the flow of visitors so mainlanders wouldn't get any ideas from having a firsthand look at the Hong Kong democracy protest.

But there were plenty of mainland residents in Hong Kong on Thursday, when local activists organized the massive march to demand universal suffrage in the former British colony. Organizers put the turnout at 530,000, while police said there had been 200,000.

The Chinese visitors voiced differing views about the rally -- which would not be permitted in the mainland.

Xiao Yang, 40, a doctor from Hubei Province, knew about the protest but said he had no plans to join it.

"It is the demonstration of Hong Kong's freedom and an open government," Xiao said. "I think the protest is a proper channel for people to voice their opinions."

But outside an official flag-raising ceremony Thursday morning that marked the seventh anniversary of Hong Kong's return from Britain to China, another mainlander had harsh words for the activists.

A small group of demonstrators -- carrying a mock black coffin -- tried to push their way toward the official gathering but were held back by police.

"They are so stupid," said accountant Bob Zhuang, 30, who was waving a Chinese red flag on his way out of the official ceremony. "Should such a protest really be allowed in this territory?"

After speaking briefly with a reporter, Zhuang stepped into a chauffeur-driven Jaguar and was quickly whisked away -- showing his status as one of the mainlanders who have achieved financial success amid China's economic boom without rocking any political boats.

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