Call for More Rallies

A Hong Kong rally commemorating China's 1989 Tiananmen massacre inspires calls for further activism.
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Children hold candles during a vigil in Hong Kong marking the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, June 4, 2011.
Children hold candles during a vigil in Hong Kong marking the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, June 4, 2011.

Hong Kong activists vowed on Monday to spearhead China's pro-democracy movement amid a nationwide security clampdown around the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square June 4 crackdown 22 years ago.

"We thought the memorial event on June 4 ... went pretty well, so we hope to be able to do a bit more work of this kind," Richard Choi, deputy chairman of the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said on Monday.

"We also hope to make a contribution by ... enabling some of our compatriots in mainland China to come here to pay their respects to June 4," Choi said.

"We also hope that our mass event in memory of June 4 will promote a democratic mindset among our mainland compatriots."

Chinese authorities have tightened security and detained large numbers of political and human rights activists ahead of Saturday's anniversary, which was marked by huge crowds attending candlelight vigils in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

'A more important role'

"Hong Kong is now playing a more important role when the whole of China is silenced," Lee Cheuk-yan, a pro-democracy lawmaker and one of the organizers said on Saturday, as thousands packed the territory's Victoria Park for the annual ceremony, including recorded messages from former 1989 student leaders and relatives of victims.

"Twenty-two years ago, the students took to the streets to launch the 1989 pro-democracy movement," said exiled former student leader Wang Dan, who was refused permission to enter Hong Kong for the event.

"Even though it's 22 years later, we can't give up the struggle, because the ideals we were fighting for back then still haven't been achieved."

While Hong Kong's government increasingly toes the Beijing line when it comes to activists wanting a visa, the Alliance said there is still plenty of support in the territory for political activists calling for reform of China's one-party state.

"We are the voice for China and we'll spread the message for democracy," said Lee.

"We are sending the strongest message to the [Chinese] communist regime that they cannot suppress the memory of June 4."

24-hour guard

Retired Beijing University professor Ding Zilin, whose 17-year-old son died in the crackdown which put an end to weeks of student-led protests, said police had been on 24-hour guard outside her apartment building throughout the weekend.

"They came to see us on May 31 and informed us that they had had orders from above that I wasn't to go out," Ding said in an interview on Monday after her phone line was reconnected.

"They were watching me on June 3 and 4, so I couldn't go to Muxidi," she said, referring to the place her son is believed to have died.

"There would be too many journalists and they would be afraid of losing control of the situation, so they kept guard," said Ding, who sent a recorded message of support to a memorial rally in Hong Kong on Saturday, which was attended by 150,000 people, according to the organizers.

"I made a formal objection," said Ding, whose telephone service was also cut off over the weekend.

However, some relatives of June 4 victims said they were able to hold a memorial event at a Beijing cemetery.

"I ran into some of the other households [who lost relatives] who were there on other businesses," Zhang said. "We went back to the cemetery to pay our respects together."

"The police tried to block our way, but we argued with them and in the end we won and were able to go back to their graves and hold a collective memorial together," she said.

Event 'still relevant'

One participant at the Hong Kong rally said that the crackdown had happened before she was born, but that she still sees the event as relevant.

"So many people died, crushed by tanks, that we are still calling for a reappraisal of the official verdict on June 4," she said. "And for China to have freedom and democracy."

In Victoria Park, participants lit candles in memory of those who died, with many using the event to call for the release of current political prisoners, including jailed Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo, and detained artist and social critic Ai Weiwei.

"Release Liu Xiaobo, release Ai Weiwei, release Huang Qi, release Tan Zuoren," the crowd chanted, also referring to two political activists jailed for investigating the deaths of schoolchildren during the devastating 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

They also viewed a prerecorded message from late democracy icon Szeto Wah, who died earlier this year of lung cancer.

"China’s road to democracy is a long way ahead," Szeto's message said. "We should not have hoped that the objective is close within reach because the Chinese Communist Party is the world’s strongest autocracy."

"Instead, we should persevere and fight hard," he said

Anniversary ignored

Beijing has never admitted wrongdoing in the massacre witnessed by the world, but instead insists China's strong economic growth in the past decades is proof it chose the right path to development.

State-run Chinese media omitted any mention of the anniversary, and Beijing residents said security would likely remain tight ahead of the Party's 90th birthday celebrations on July 1.

Similar vigils were held in Taiwan and other major cities, including Washington.

Reported by Xin Yu and Fang Yuan for RFA's Mandarin service, and by Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.





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