Massive crowds in Hong Kong mark 1989 Beijing massacre anniversary
Jun 4, 2011, 16:23 GMT
Hong Kong - A vast crowd estimated at up to 150,000 joined a candlelit vigil in Hong Kong Saturday to mark the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
The event in Hong Kong, which has a mini-constitution guaranteeing free speech and the right to demonstrate, is the only public commemoration of the June 4, 1989 killings held on Chinese soil.
Organizers said 150,000 attended the annual event in the former British colony while police, who traditionally downplay the turnout, said it was in the region of 77,000.
Six football pitches in Hong Kong's Victoria Park were filled with people for the demonstration, appearing to confirm the organizers' estimate which would make it one of the biggest turnouts.
Organizers the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China said Saturday's turnout was buoyed by public anger over the arrest of artist Ai Weiwei in Beijing in April.
Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said many people taking part in Saturday's demonstration were students and visitors from China. Hawkers selling Ai Weiwei t-shirts at the event did a roaring trade.
Lee said he believed the recent heightened suppression of human rights defenders and the arrest of dissidents in China had drawn more participants.
'I feel very moved,' he said. 'We have been successful in passing the torch to the younger generation. Hong Kong is a place where young Chinese people can voice their aspiration for freedom and democracy '
If the turnout of 150,000 is confirmed, it would be among the biggest in vigil's history since 1989 itself when more than one million people took to the street of Hong Kong to protest the deaths.
Hundreds of students died when China's military crushed a student uprising in the streets around Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, one of the bloodiest moments in China's post-revolutionary history.
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