A group of Hong Kong activists flew kites in Sai Kung on Sunday to commemorate the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen massacre and call for the release of those jailed for rights advocacy in China.

The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China flew two kites, with “resist authoritarianism and commemorate June 4” and “end one-party dictatorship” written on them respectively.

The two kites. Photo: Hong Kong Alliance/Rheneas Choi, via Facebook.

The annual activity was inspired by Beijing’s student protesters, who flew kites in May 1989 to obstruct military helicopters conducting surveillance from above.

The Alliance has been flying kites at the Clear Water Bay Country Park every year since 1993. The group also organises an annual vigil on June 4 in Causeway Bay’s Victoria Park.

Former lawmaker Lee Cheuk-yan, of the Alliance, said: “Hong Kong is now being threatened by authoritarian encroachment, as exemplified by the series of disqualifications of lawmakers and political prosecutions against the pro-democracy camp.”

“Hong Kong people are now trying to defend their freedoms under the threat of authoritarianism. We want to draw a connection between the situation in Hong Kong and the crackdown and suppression facing Chinese rights activists.”

He said that Hong Kong people cannot fight alone as they and their mainland counterparts are faced with “the same rights-repressing regime and one-party rule.”

The Alliance’s vice-chairman Richard Tsoi said the June 4 vigil this year will place emphasis on the plight of Chinese rights advocates and artist Liu Xia, who has been under de facto house arrest since her husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

The Alliance at the kite-flying event.

But Hong Kong youth have shown growing dissatisfaction with the commemoration events hosted by the Alliance. Beginning in 2015, some university student groups have stopped participating in the Victoria Park vigil, which typically draws tens of thousands of attendees.

This year, at least eight university student unions have said they will not join the vigil. They said it was “not Hongkongers’ responsibility to seek justice for the victims” and that the task should be taken up by Chinese people themselves.

See also: ‘The key is persistence’: 28 years on, why some Hongkongers still commemorate the Tiananmen massacre victims

Lee said he understood the students’ desire to assert their local identity by breaking away from the movement, but he said the most pressing issue is to “break away from the suppressive regime.”

Almost 29 years after Beijing’s violent crackdown on the student-led protests in Tiananmen Square, the incident remains taboo in mainland China. The Chinese government has never given an official death toll for the crackdown, though independent observers tallied more than 1,000 dead.

Ellie Ng

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.