A sharp increase in the number of mainlanders visiting the June 4 vigil in Victoria Park helped fuel donations to pro-democracy groups to near-record levels, organisers say.
With turnout at Wednesday's event - estimated at 180,000 by organisers, 99,500 by police - hitting an all-time high, its organiser the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China raised HK$1.8 million in donations, an amount second only to the record HK$2.3 million it raised in 2012.
This was partly due to a surge in yuan donations to HK$40,000, a 60 per cent increase on last year.
"From our fundraising work and observations, we believe there were many more mainland tourists attending the vigil than a year ago," alliance vice-chairman Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong said.
Tsoi said the largest donation came from an unknown person who dropped an envelope containing 5,000 yuan into the alliance's collection box.
He said the funds raised would pay the HK$1 million cost of the vigil while the remainder would be used for the alliance's operations and activities throughout the year.
Besides its importance as a night of remembrance, the June 4 vigil offers an opportunity for pan-democratic groups to raise funds. Groups including the Civic Party and Scholarism sold T-shirts and other merchandise in Great George Street, the main approach road to the park from Causeway Bay.
The student-led group Scholarism raised HK$370,000 - well above the HK$210,000 it received last year and more than 10 times the HK$20,000 raised in 2012.
Scholarism spokesman Oscar Lai Man-lok said this brought its accumulated funds to over HK$1 million. The donations included about 8,000 yuan. The group would continue to raise funds at the annual July 1 protest rally as it still needed more money to campaign for public nomination in the 2017 chief executive election, he said.
"We will print more publicity materials and hope to mail them to residents … and also run full-page adverts in newspapers and magazines, as well as advertise on taxis and minibuses," Lai said. "But advertising is not cheap."
He said the group's million-dollar war chest was managed by a committee of four members, two accountants and an auditor. Scholarism raised HK$720,000 at last year's July 1 rally.
Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said remembering the June 4, 1989, crackdown at Tiananmen Square was not the sole factor behind the record turnout.
"[People] 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, our real opponent is Beijing."
Teng Biao, a mainland civil-rights lawyer who gave a well- received speech at the vigil in which he praised the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, said yesterday that mainland authorities warned him by phone a week ago not to attend the event. "They did not specify what consequences there would be, but they said they would be serious," he added.
Teng said he was moved by the huge turnout. "It is the first time in my life that I have seen so many people attending a political event," he said.