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Tens of Thousands in Hong Kong Honor Tiananmen Square Protesters

On the mainland, security is tightened to prevent observance of massacre's anniversary.

June 05, 2005|From Times Wire Services

BEIJING — China tightened security around Tiananmen Square to prevent commemoration of Saturday's 16th anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. But in Hong Kong, tens of thousands of protesters staged a candlelight rally.

"Vindicate the 1989 democracy movement," "Release all political dissidents," "End one-party rule," the crowd chanted at the annual rally in central Victoria Park in the former British colony, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Police estimated that 22,000 people attended the vigil, but organizers said the crowd numbered 30,000 to 40,000.

Many in Hong Kong feel a duty to speak out because they have freedom of speech and assembly, and those on the mainland do not.

The territory is ruled under a "one country, two systems" formula that promises the region a wide degree of autonomy.

"My heart is heavy," said rally participant Shum Ming, 58, a construction worker. "Hong Kong people will not forget this history when a government uses guns and tanks to crush students. It's very atrocious."

On the mainland, there was no public mention of the anniversary nor any sign of attempts to commemorate it.

Tiananmen Square, the symbolic political heart of China, was open to the public. But extra carloads of police watched tourists on the plaza.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were killed on the night of June 3-4, 1989, when troops and tanks rolled into Beijing and, in the face of opposition from the city's residents, seized control of the square that had been occupied by students demonstrating for democracy.

Washington used the anniversary to press Beijing for a full account of the victims of what it called the "brutal and tragic" events of 1989.

In addition to those who died, thousands of Chinese were arrested and sentenced without trial, and as many as 250 still languish in prison for Tiananmen Square-related activities, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"We call on the Chinese government to fully account for the thousands killed, detained, or missing, and to release those unjustly imprisoned," he said.

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