Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to demand justice for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. The annual march comes ahead of a larger commemorative vigil next Tuesday to mark 30 years since the crackdown.
The streets of Central bristled with yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the 2014 mass democracy protest, as demonstrators marched from Wan Chai to the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan holding signs that read “Justice will prevail” and “Vindicate June 4th.”
The annual rally was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China.
The massacre occurred on June 4 1989, ending months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, died as the People’s Liberation Army suppressed protesters in Beijing.
Organisers said 2,200 people attended the rally – double that of last year’s 1,100 estimate – while police put the figure at 2,100.
The crowd made their way through Causeway Bay’s congested retail district chanting slogans in support of democratic development in the mainland, as pedestrians fielded their way through a sea of placards. Attendees met a small group of pro-Beijing counter-protesters waving Chinese flags along Hennessey Road.
Chairman of the Alliance Albert Ho said this year’s march both observes the June 4 massacre and protests against the local government’s extradition bill: “The people will think of the aspiration for democracy, but recently we are recently faced with the challenge of this Fugitive Offenders bill, which certainly affects our basic freedoms and liberty, so there is good reason for us to connect these themes together, mainly our aspiration for democracy and our earnest desire to fight for our freedoms.”
Hong Kong proposed legal amendments in February to allow the city to handle case-by-case extradition requests from jurisdictions with no prior agreements, most notably China and Taiwan. The plan would enable the chief executive and local courts to handle extradition requests without legislative oversight, although critics have raised concerns over the risk of residents being extradited to the mainland. The bill could reach a final vote before the current legislative period ends in July.
The Alliance hosted a talk on the potential impact of the extradition bill before the march.
The panel featured vice-chairperson Richard Tsoi, lawmaker Wu Chi-wai, lawyer Anson Wong Yu-yat, and Chairperson of the Hong Kong Journalist Association Mak Yin-ting.
One protester wore a tank costume, while members of the League of Social Democrats carried a casket to honour those who died.
Amnesty International researcher Patrick Poon told HKFP that the march serves as a reminder of looming threats to freedoms in Hong Kong: “I still think it’s remarkable to see as many people come out today after 30 years,” he said. “By remembering what happened 30 years ago, now actually we also see what will happen in Hong Kong if we don’t speak up.”
Hundreds take to the streets in Hong Kong for an annual march to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Attendees are calling for vindication, accountability and justice for victims of the crackdown. pic.twitter.com/yxrCuWvHtS
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) May 26, 2019
Jackie Liu, who works at a religious organisation, has attended the march for the past 10 years. “I was also born in 1989 so I think this is something related to my life,” he said. “I am here today to [remember] the June 4th event and to pass on the memory to the next generation. This is our mission, I think.”
A local university student, who declined to give his name, told HKFP that he decided to attend the march to also voice his concern over the extradition bill: “It will affect everyone in Hong Kong,” he said.
“The [crimes] are very ambiguous. It won’t just affect the so-called criminals, but it will allow the Chinese government to extradite anyone who opposes them in the future.”
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