Hong Kong to mark Tiananmen anniversary with huge vigil

HONG KONG (AFP) - More than 100,000 people are expected to attend a candlelight vigil on Tuesday in Hong Kong, the only Chinese city to openly mark the 24th anniversary of the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Residents of the former British colony gather each year at the city's Victoria Park to commemorate the victims, thought to number at least hundreds, of the brutal military intervention in Beijing that ended weeks of nationwide democracy protests in 1989.

Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, the organisers of the event, said they expect 150,000 people to attend and make impassioned calls to never forget the students who sacrificed their lives for democratic reforms.

"I think all of us, even the new generation in Hong Kong, would have the same feeling that it is a tragedy and also an offence of the government to shoot people like that," Alliance vice chairman Richard Choi told AFP.

"The problem is still not resolved, that's why Hong Kong people have the same feelings and the same demands as they did 24 years ago," Mr Choi said.

An official Chinese Communist Party verdict after the Tiananmen protests branded the movement a "counter-revolutionary rebellion", and the events of 1989 have largely been expunged from Chinese official history.

But pro-democracy advocates in the southern Chinese city have constantly sought ways to remind locals and mainland Chinese visitors of the events which took place that year.

More than a thousand protesters walked to the city's government headquarters and then to the Chinese liaison office in late May to call for the vindication of those who died in the June 4 crackdown.

A large tank made with white cardboard with slogans "never forget June 4", and "One party rule, politics murders people" written in red was seen in the busy shopping district of Mong Kok.

Local students also staged a three-day hunger strike in a posh shopping district popular with mainland Chinese tourists, re-enacting student leaders in Beijing as they demanded a dialogue with top political leaders.

A survey conducted by the Hong Kong University last month found around 68 per cent of the people interviewed thought the Chinese government acted wrongly in 1989.

The survey, which carried out more than 1,000 interviews also found that around 68 per cent of Hong Kongers believe that the city should incite the development of democracy in China.

In China, more than 100 people whose relatives were killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown hit out at the country's new president Xi Jinping in an open letter, days ahead of the anniversary of the deaths.

Hong Kong reverted to Chinese rule in 1997 as a semi-autonomous territory with its own mini-constitution that guarantees basic rights and freedoms not enjoyed on the mainland, including freedom of speech and assembly.