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HK vigil over Tiananmen
- In Beijing, stifling security presence forestalls protests

Hong Kong, June 4: Throngs began gathering late this afternoon at a downtown Hong Kong park fringed by skyscrapers to mark and to mourn the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

But in Beijing and elsewhere in mainland China, a stifling security presence on the streets and online appeared to forestall protests.

The Chinese police have detained and in some cases prosecuted scores of human rights activists in recent weeks. Online censors have stepped up their already extensive blocking or deleting of websites and postings that contradict the Communist Party’s effort to erase the public’s memory of the bloodshed in 1989.

The silence about the anniversary that security agencies imposed in mainland China left Hong Kong as the only city on Chinese soil where the Communist Party has been unable to prevent protests.

People poured out of subway exits and nearby shopping districts to pick up white candles and head for a row of six concrete soccer fields in Victoria Park on Hong Kong Island to commemorate an event widely seen as a turning point in contemporary Chinese history.

The mourners marked the day in 1989 when soldiers in Beijing killed hundreds of students, workers and professionals seeking greater democracy and limits on corruption. But Hong Kong, a possible signpost for what political discourse might look like in a less repressive China, has become deeply divided in the quarter-century since the crackdown, as mainland China has combined rapid economic growth with severe and recently increasing restrictions on civil liberties.

Before today’s vigil began, pro-democracy Hong Kong lawmakers predicted that mostly clear skies would help bring out bigger crowds than last year, when torrential downpours depressed the turnout. But they sought to limit expectations for a very large crowd, noting deep divisions that have emerged within their own ranks in recent years.

“What the Communist Party couldn’t do over the last 20-some years, we’ve been able to do on our own — it’s pretty pathetic if you ask me,” said Ronny Tong, a member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council from the Civic Party.

Average economic output per person, adjusted for inflation, has soared nearly 20-fold in China since the Tiananmen killings, turning the country into the world’s largest market for everything from cars to flat-panel televisions. But the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo remains in prison for seeking greater political freedom.

 
 
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