A pro-democracy activist is planning to hold an alternative candlelight vigil conducted in English to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Michael Mo, co-founder of the policy advocacy group Lab in Hong Kong, told HKFP that he has filed an application for a letter of no objection to the police for the proposed event outside the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. He is awaiting a reply.

Mo said he planned the vigil because it was impossible to change the patriotic themes of the main, annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Causeway Bay. Organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Mo said that the theme of the Victoria Park event had become unappealing to young people.

Photo: Citizen News.

“To young people, June 4 is just another typical day, and this makes me sad,” Mo said. “I hope to do something to commemorate the victims and call for justice at all levels… free from patriotic ideals.”

The Tiananmen massacre ended months of student-led demonstrations in China as the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on protesters in Beijing. UK Foreign Office files declassified last year revealed that a member of the Chinese State Council estimated that at least 10,000 civilians were killed.

No slogans

Mo told HKFP that slogans will not part of his proposed vigil – a response to the main vigil’s tradition of chants for “ending one-party rule” and “building a democratic China.”

The tentative schedule included paying tribute to victims under the “Freedom Fighter” statute, and reading poems by Liu Xia, widow of late Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo: “It would be plain, short and simple.”

Freedom Fighter statue
Statue outside Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Another Believer.

“Like similar tragedies in human history, those who live must see justice done. We will remember, and we will never let those who’ve committed such crimes against humanity walk away,” Mo said.

“We will call for bringing those who have likely committed crimes against humanity at that time to be tried at international courts,” he said.

Michael Mo
Michael Mo. Photo: Handout.

It would not be the first time that a separate vigil would be held across the harbour.

Activists first hosted a separate vigil in 2013. Localist group has Civic Passion hosted alternative rallies on June 4 between 2014 and 2016. The group said the highest attendance was in 2014, attracting 7,000 people.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.