Huge crowds in Hong Kong turned out to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown of June 4, 1989, amid concerns that the human rights situation in China has taken a turn for the worse in the past year. According to organizers, around 150,000 people attended the gathering at Victoria Park in Hong Kong. Local media reports say Hong Kong police, which have generally given far lower crowd estimates than those of the organizers, put the maximum number of attendees at 77,000.
Attendees packed Hong Kong’s Victoria Park holding candles and singing songs in memory of those who lost their lives in the 1989 crackdown. In a sign of the issues on the minds of many attendees, vendors outside the park sold T-shirts with references to artist Ai Weiwei, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government who has been detained for more than a month, and the Jasmine Revolution—an allusion Tunisia’s revolution and to calls for political reform. Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China with its own laws, has held a June 4 commemoration every year since 1989. Such activities are illegal on the mainland. Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organizes the vigil each year, said the current human rights situation in China was the “darkest” in the last 22 years, as authorities use upheaval in the Middle East to justify their heavy-handed tactics “outside of the law.”
This is the first year that the vigil was held without the leadership of Szeto Wah, a veteran of the democratic movement in Hong Kong who died this year. Mr. Lee succeeded Mr. Szeto as chairman of the Alliance after his death. Tributes were paid by the organizers to the centenary of the Xinhai Revolution, which overturned Qing dynastic rule in China. Some Chinese nationalist flags were visible at the vigil. Ivan Chan, 30, who has attended the vigil every year, wore a shirt with the pattern of the Taiwanese red white and blue flag.