Hong Kong — Hong Kong's annual commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown drew tens of thousands of people, with organizers rejecting suggestions democracy is taking a backseat to renewed patriotism as the Beijing Olympics approaches and after a devastating earthquake in China.
The candlelight vigil at the city's Victoria Park to commemorate the 19th anniversary of China's crackdown on the Beijing pro-democracy student movement began with a minute's silence to mourn victims of the May 12 Sichuan earthquake, China's deadliest in 32 years.
As many as 48,000 people flocked to the vigil, filling almost five basketball courts, the vice chairman of the organizing group, Lee Cheuk-yan, said. A police estimate put the number in attendance at 15,700. A police spokeswoman, Annissa Chan, said the event was peaceful and passed without incident.
Hong Kong is the only city on Chinese soil to mark the event, in which hundreds, maybe thousands, of student protesters died when the Chinese military was sent to quell a month-long demonstration in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square calling for democratic reform in the Communist Party-ruled nation and for a clampdown on government corruption.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China drew an estimated 600 marchers to its annual commemorative march on June 1, far fewer than the thousands that had attended in earlier years.
Less than half of Hong Kong people surveyed about Tiananmen in the last week said China should change its position that the crackdown was necessary, probably because of patriotism linked to the Beijing Olympic Games and sympathy for the earthquake victims, according to the survey's director, Robert Chung.
"After 19 years, the Victoria Park vigil could still draw a crowd of 40,000 to 50,000 people, that's a sign of Hong Kong people's persistence," Mr. Lee said yesterday. "We will continue our fight for democracy in China."