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150,000 gather in Hong Kong for Tiananmen vigil

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Over 150,000 people gathered in Hong Kong on Thursday night to remember the victims of the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the deaths of hundreds - potentially thousands - of pro-democracy campaigners in Beijing, the candlelight vigil was the only such protest to take place on Chinese soil.

Organisers of the vigil, which has taken place annually on June 4th since 1990, said that the reported crowd of 150,000 may be the largest ever seen for the anniversary in Hong Kong.

The crackdown in Tiananmen was brought abruptly back into the public sphere last month when Hong Kong's premier, chief executive Donald Tsang, suggested to legislators that people should try to forget about the incident.

"[It] happened many years ago," said Mr Tsang. "The country's development in many areas has since achieved tremendous results and brought economic prosperity to Hong Kong."

One campaigner present at the vigil explained that such kowtowing to Beijing is part of his reason for attending this evening.

"Hong Kong has not forgotten the massacre which occurred 20 years ago," explained resident Tom Grundy.

"People are here tonight also as they are worried about the potential of encroaching restrictions on their freedoms, as China is perceived to be eroding the One Country, Two Systems agreement."

The vigil comes at a sensitive time for Hong Kong as many in the region are concerned about the possibility that Beijing may be increasing its influence on the autonomous region.

At present, the city is deemed a Special Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, and as such enjoys a separate legal system from that of mainland China; freedom of speech is permitted and the Hong Kong government is financially autonomous from the Chinese government.

Last week however Jens Galschiot, a Danish sculptor, was refused entry to the region after landing in the city.

In 1997 Mr Galschiot created the Pillar of Shame, a sculpture depicting the horror of the massacre which took place 20 years ago today, and still stands in the grounds of Hong Kong University.

Many in Hong Kong have speculated that the refusal to allow Mr Galschiot entry to the region is further evidence of the pressure exerted by Beijing on to Hong Kong, making tonight's peaceful vigil all the more resonant.
© Adfero Ltd
05 June 2009 11:14 GMT

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