150 000 join Tiananmen vigil

2010-06-04 17:06

Hong Kong - Huge crowds - estimated by organisers to number at least 150 000 - on Friday joined a candlelight vigil in Hong Kong marking the 21st anniversary of the deadly Chinese government crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The estimated turnout was three times larger than the 50 000 expected for the annual vigil in Hong Kong's Victoria Park, the only place on Chinese soil where the killings of June 4 1989 are publicly commemorated.

Friday evening's crowd appears to have matched and possibly exceeded the 150 000 people who attended last year's 20th anniversary vigil marking the crackdown, in which hundreds of student protesters died.

Hong Kong Democratic Party chairperson Albert Ho said the turnout was "overwhelming" and said: "It far exceeds expectations ... it shows that people have not forgotten June 4 and have even stronger feelings."

The turnout, which included an unusually large proportion of young people, appears to have been boosted by a series of political controversies in the run-up to the anniversary.

Police confiscated two replica statues of the Goddess of Democracy, a statue built in 1989 by the Beijing students, from shopping malls in Hong Kong over the weekend before handing them back on Tuesday. Thirteen activists were detained by police.

One of the statue's sculptors, a Chinese New Zealand passport holder, was then turned away by Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed government on Tuesday when he flew in from the United States.

Hong Kong is currently embroiled in a bitter debate of its own over the pace of democratic development in the city, a former British colony that reverted to Chinese rule in 1997.

People in Hong Kong enjoy freedoms under their mini-constitution denied to people elsewhere in China, including the rights to demonstrate and the rights to political expression.