Lowest turnout since 2008 for HK Tiananmen vigil

Tens of thousands of people taking part in a candle-light vigil to mark the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Student unions continued their boycott of the vigil, saying its message is increasingly irrelevant to Hong Kong.
Tens of thousands of people taking part in a candle-light vigil to mark the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Student unions continued their boycott of the vigil, saying its message is increasingly irrelevant to Hong Kong.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG • Tens of thousands gathered at a candle-lit vigil in Hong Kong last night to mark 28 years since the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown, but the annual event is struggling for support among younger generations.

The vigil at Victoria Park, organised by an umbrella group of veteran democracy activists, demands justice for the victims of the crackdown and also pushes for the democratisation of China.

The organisers said 110,000 people attended the event, the lowest turnout since 2008. For the third year running, student unions continued their boycott of the vigil, saying its message is increasingly irrelevant to Hong Kong.

Younger generations tend to see themselves as distant from mainland China, with some calling for more autonomy or even independence for Hong Kong after mass rallies for political reform in 2014 failed to win concessions.

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This year's events are especially politically charged, coming just a month before an expected visit of President Xi Jinping to mark 20 years since Hong Kong was handed back to China.

"When Xi Jinping comes, he'll know the people of Hong Kong have not forgotten," said Mr Lee Cheuk Yan, a veteran democracy activist and an organiser of the annual candle-light vigil.

A Taiwanese flag was hoisted among some participants last night, reported Hong Kong Free Press on its website. Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen yesterday wrote on Facebook that the Tiananmen demonstrators inspired a whole generation.

She said that the biggest gap between Taiwan and China is democracy and freedom, needling Beijing at a time when relations between the two sides are at a low point.

Millions of users of China's social media platform Weibo were blocked from posting pictures or videos in what appeared to be a move to suppress any discussion of the Tiananmen Incident, reported Sunday Morning Post.

On Friday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said China had long ago reached a conclusion about June 4.

"I hope you can pay more attention to the positive changes happening in all levels of Chinese society," she said without elaborating.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2017, with the headline 'Lowest turnout since 2008 for HK Tiananmen vigil'. Print Edition | Subscribe