Tiananmen Square crackdown

Anger at Beijing's stance on elections drove huge Tiananmen vigil turnout: organiser

Lee Cheuk-yan says young people may draw inspiration from 1989 student leaders; civil rights lawyer who backed Occupy at event 'was warned not to attend'

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 11:40am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 June, 2014, 11:58am

Frustration with Beijing’s opposition to open elections by universal suffrage in 2016 and 2017 may have driven the enormous turnout at the Victoria Park candlelight vigil to mark the 25th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen crackdown last night, an organiser says.

Lee Cheuk-yan, chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, told RTHK on Thursday that he saw many young people and mainlanders at last night’s vigil.

Lee said young Hongkongers in particular may draw inspiration from the student leaders of the 1989 pro-democracy movement.

The alliance said 180,000 people attended last night, well up on the 150,000 it said attended last year. Police put last night’s attendance at 99,500.

Lee said the alliance had raised more than HK$1.7million during the event, including donations in yuan.

Remembering the crackdown was not the sole reason for many participants attending last night, Lee said.

“They see the Beijing government is not letting us have universal suffrage in Hong Kong,” he said. “They realise that while we are discussing universal suffrage here, our real opponent is Beijing.”

Lee also noted that many young people “see the 1989 student leaders in themselves”.

Watch: Huge crowds attend Hong Kong's 25th anniversary Tiananmen remembrance vigil

Teng Biao, a mainland civil rights lawyer who gave a well-received speech at the vigil last night in which he praised the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, said on Thursday that mainland authorities had warned him by phone not to attend the event a week ago.

“They did not specify what consequences there would be [if I attended], but they said they would be serious,” he said.

Teng said he was moved by the huge turnout last night. “It’s the first time in my life that I have seen so many people attending a political event.”

Teng is working as a visiting scholar in Hong Kong. He said his contract would end in two to three months, after which he will go to the United States to take part in another visiting programme for a year. His family lives in the mainland.

An alternative Tiananmen memorial event was held by four pan-democrat groups in Tsim Sha Tsui on Wednesday night. Some of the participants there said they did not support demands for vindication of those who died in the military crackdown because that would mean they accepted the legitimacy of the Communist Party’s rule.

Discussing the alternative event, Lee said it was Beijing’s tactic to divide opposition groups. He respected the organisers’ decision to stage another rally, but said he hoped people could unite for the purpose of changing the mainland’s political environment.