Organisers say over 180,000 Hong Kongers gathered this evening in Victoria Park and to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.
Despite the humid weather, it was a record turnout as attendees, listened to speeches, sang songs, watched videos of people recalling their experiences and took part in a moment’s silence to remember the dead. Wearing black and holding candles, they filled six soccer pitches.
Hong Kong remains the only place on Chinese soil where the true extent of the ‘incident’ can even be acknowledged.
Police put the turnout at 99,500 (seemingly unable to stomach publishing a 6-figure estimate). Traditionally, the authorities give a headcount much lower than the organiser figure.
Speakers included HK Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan, vice-chairman Mak Hoi-wah and executive member Ashley Chau. They were joined by human rights lawyer Teng Biao and Alex Chow Yong-kang of the the Federation of Students.
Tonight’s vigil was said to be the most ‘politically charged‘ gathering of its kind since 1.5 million Hong Kongers first hit the streets to protest the crackdown in 1989. The rally, 25-years-ago, remains the city’s largest ever demonstration.
Readers can re-watch the vigil (in Cantonese) on YouTube.
In what was a first for the annual vigil, a pro-government group, ‘Voice of Loving Hong Kong’, held a counter-rally in support of the massacre. Organiser Patrick Ko told Hong Wrong that the vigil was organised simply to “get political benefits from the Hong Kong people” and that he’d seen information suggesting no-one died in the actual square.
Dozens of police officers surrounded fewer than a dozen counter-protesters. However, a nearby activist named ‘Scott’ repeatedly switched off their TV by discreetly using a universal remote app on his phone.
Last week, concerns were raised after solicitor Larry Kwok was announced as the new chairman of the Independent Police Complaints Council. Kwok, a close supporter of HK leader CY Leung, has been a communist party member for over a decade.
Also last week, a Taiwanese scholar – Professor Tseng Chien-yuan – was denied entry to Hong Kong as he was due to speak about the massacre at a conference on the issue – authorities cancelled his travel permit. A US-based activist was also turned away at the border last month when he tried to attend the opening of the June 4th Museum.
As the Chinese authorities remain quiet, the Wall Street Journal has listed the Tiananmen-related terms that are currently being censored online in the mainland. Access to Google has also been restricted and AP journalist Hélène Franchineau reports that all foreigners around Tiananmen Square are having their IDs checked. Meanwhile, LinkedIn has been happy to censor itself.
Websites run by the organisers of tonight’s vigil remain offline after multiple ‘denial of service’ attacks.
‘Human Rights in China’ has published an excellent series entitled ‘June Fourth at 25: Resisting Enforced Amnesia, Building a Just Future’.
The South China Morning Post was praised for it’s excellent 13-part multimedia piece on the crackdown today, yet also criticised for its editorial decision to ignore the quarter-century anniversary on its front page.
This year, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists downgraded Hong Kong’s press freedom ratings and criticised the spate of self-censorship. It follows two violent attacks on journalists in the city and protests by local reporters.
The vigil in full: