FOUR years ago this week, following the Tiananmen Square massacre, 8,000 pro-democracy groups set themselves up to tackle the problem, today there are 35. The enthusiasm and ferocious spirit of Chinese democracy activists have all but dissipated. Most of those who vowed to fight for the rights of the Chinese people have turned their attention to other things. Friday marks the fourth anniversary of the June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Beijing - but those violent, frightening images have now faded. Money to support student dissident groups ran out long ago. Inter-group bickering has weakened the unity of the movement and even the staunchest supporters of democracy in China have to admit that maybe it has all been for nothing. France and the US became hotbeds of student activity after the June 4 incident, and groups were fuelled by money from supporters. But the system began to show signs of weakness a year ago when the Federation for a Democratic China, one of France's most powerful pro-democracy organisations, was forced to cut the size of its staff and office in half because of financial problems. A few months ago, the group shut its doors and its main activist, Mr Lu Yang, moved to Belgium. According to Mr Nicolas Druz, editor of the Paris-based, Chinese-language Europe Journal , a close observer of the democracy movement, support is fast running out. ''It is true they are losing support. The future now depends on whether these groups are strong enough,'' he said. But he said the relatively small number of active pro-democracy workers left have ''learnt a lot''. ''They used to be sensational and make too much noise. Now they work more seriously. They are no longer rock stars. Four years ago, they just reacted to everything. These days they have to propose changes.'' Times may be turbulent for the movement, but sympathisers said groups had to be persistent. ''They can no longer rely on outsiders for funds. They have to support themselves and be able to interest people.'' Not an easy task. Dr Stephen Ng, chairman for the Alliance for Hongkong Chinese in the US, said cutbacks had been visible; of the groups remaining, fewer were organising extravagant meetings and flying delegates around. ''None of us are Tiananmen Square heroes and we never depended on the celebrity activists. We can only be cheerleaders. These star students are trying to make a living and adjust to a new life so they are not as active politically. They are still concerned, but there is little they can do out of the country.'' Mr Guo Ping, the San Francisco-based head of Chinese Alliance for Democracy, said he was desperate to keep the movement together, and called for ex-celebrity activist Mr Wu'erkaixi to return to centre-stage. ''I wish he were more active but, like the others, he says he has to get on with his life. I'm sure they still have their dreams, but there is nothing they can do anymore. ''We have to form a united front but there used to be too many pro-democracy organisations in the world, so we stopped having a unified voice.'' Mr Guo admitted his organisation was in financial difficulties, and conceded he did not know how much longer it could survive. ''The kind of support we are looking for will not come from the people who supported us right after the massacre. We are going to have to find it elsewhere.'' Mr Guo said a proposal was being submitted to the US National Endowment for Democracy, and that he was seeking support from Taiwan and Hongkong. ''The feelings cannot stay at the same high energy for such a long time. There are ups and downs. The enthusiasm is now at a low stage.'' Mr Xiao Qiang, executive director of the New York-based Human Rights in China, said all was not lost. This Friday, the group will release a report on human rights abuses in China in the hope of keeping the cause alive. ''We need at least US$250,000 [HK$1.95 million] a year for basic expenses. But we need double that to do our work effectively. ''There are difficulties. People are leaving the movement and others are not as active. We especially feel the loss of high-profile activists, but this kind of work requires a lot of sacrifice.'' Mr Marshall Strauss, executive director of the Democracy of China Fund, said the diminished financial support was to be expected. ''What happened in 1989 was an extraordinary moment and there were numerous individuals and foundations who wanted to become involved in the cause,'' said Mr Strauss. ''But the people in charge are now more selective about where the cash goes to. ''Just walking through the door and saying you are a student activist is not enough anymore. If you don't have a performance record, they are not going to hand over the cash. It's that simple.'' But there was hope for the long-term, he said. ''If the US believes China in the next 20 years can be what Japan has been in the past 20 years, then the democracy movement has a future.'' In the meantime, leaders of all the organisations said they would do what they could to commemorate the anniversary in any way they could afford to, even if it was a single white candle.