A crowd estimated at 100,000 or more congregated in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park last night to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
The student-led protests of 25 years ago reflected at that time seething discontent among a populace not only at authoritarianism within the Communist halls of power, but also at national economic degradation, with the country riddled by high inflation.
Of course Hong Kong’s economic fortunes now are inextricably linked to those of China, which in the asset management world can be seen by the pending mutual funds recognition scheme expected to be launched this year.
Further schemes, particularly to internationalise China's renminbi currency, have also been launched, including QFII, RQFII and the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect.
But Hong Kong still retains a legacy of ideological differentiation from its motherland, with China in fact introducing strands of capitalism to its Communist culture that it can be seen to have learned from its southern city and international gateway.
Yesterday was not only the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, but also the 25th time that residents of Hong Kong had congregated in Victoria Park to mark the events of that day.
The park is one of the only places on Chinese soil to hold such a public remembrance, certainly on such a scale.
A Hong Kong office worker surnamed Leung said she hoped Hong Kong would one day achieve full democracy. “Otherwise we won’t have any hope for the future,” she told AsianInvestor.
The candlelit vigil itself lasted two hours and was extremely dignified and peaceful. The local police force reported attendance of 99,500.
The event was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which said 180,000 people had attended.
Participants called on China’s Communist Party to acknowledge and account for its crackdown on dissenters in 1989.
Teng Biao, a human rights lawyer from China and lecturer at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing, told the assembled crowd: “Our lives witness the deaths of the protesters. We have to request truth and justice.
“My university colleagues told me not to come. But since I am here, I have to say thank you to the people of Hong Kong for commemorating the incident.”
Another couple who declined to give their names told AsianInvestor they suspected that China was never likely to apologise. “Meanwhile Hong Kong won’t be able to change,” they said. “We just hope that China won’t interfere in our city’s affairs too much.”
The Tiananmen protests had been sparked by the 1989 death of Hu Yaobang, former general-secretary to the Communist Party who had been disgraced in 1987 by conservative factions within the Party's ranks.
Hu had pursued a series of economic and political reforms that proved unpopular with Party elders. Earlier civil unrest had been blamed on Hu and he had to resign in 1987, although he retained his seat in the Politburo. Hu's calls for transparency in government had resonated with citizens' concerns.
Students, factory workers, intellectuals, civil servants and others gathered in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing to call for the nation's leaders to revise their stance against Hu following his death, and for the Party to recognise the values of freedom of expression and rule of law.
The student-led protest eventually numbered hundreds of thousands and lasted for more than a month, culminating in the early morning of June 4, 1989, after paramount leader Deng Xiaoping had ordered the People’s Liberation Army to suppress the protests.
Tanks rolled in under order of martial law, and troops with assault rifles fired on unarmed civilians. Estimates of the death toll range from hundreds to thousands.
A housewife surnamed Ho who attended Victoria Park with her child said: “I want my son to know what this is all about, and I hope that everyone will find out about the truth of June 4.”