Across the line into protest country
Stuart Lau and Ng Kang-chung
A new group of participants has emerged to bolster the ranks of local activists marching each year to demand Beijing's rehabilitation of the 1989 pro-democracy movement: mainland tourists.
Several mainlanders joined the protest yesterday, saying they were moved to 'be able to feel the air of freedom' in Hong Kong as they walked from Victoria Park to the government headquarters in Admiralty.
'I am very moved to see this],' 31-year-old Mr Ou, from Hunan province, said.
'I hope the next time I join such a protest march, it's a legitimate one on the mainland.'
A 65-year-old visitor from Shenzhen said he was taking part in the march for the second time. 'I value the chance because in China we are gagged,' he said.
Wen Yunchao, a mainland dissident now based in Hong Kong, said many students and workers came to the city for the march.
Many of the mainland participants said they learned about the bloody 1989 crackdown during trips to Hong Kong.
Yesterday's march was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China to mark next week's 23rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square killings.
The alliance claimed 2,100 people took part, compared with 2,000 last year, 2,500 in 2010 and 8,000 in 2009. The police said 1,100 people were at the start in Victoria Park at 3pm.
The protesters, most of whom wore black and white clothes as a sign of mourning, carried banners and placards on their three-hour march, saying the public would 'refuse to forget' the authorities' crackdown.
Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said the police had issued a letter of no objection for the annual candlelight vigil next week. But he said there were signs of the police tightening their grip over protests. He said police asked for details of the groups taking part in yesterday's march.
'I feel that they had a blacklist of unwelcome groups and wanted to know which ones on the list would show up,' Lee said.
Undersecretary for security Lai Tung-kwok dismissed Lee's claims, saying it was usual practice for police to contact a protest organiser to ensure the protest went smoothly.