Tiananmen Square crackdown

LIVE BLOG: Tiananmen Square 25th anniversary vigil in Hong Kong

Follow the latest news as thousands gather in Victoria Park for a candlelight vigil to remember those killed in the bloody crackdown of June 4, 1989

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 4:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 June, 2018, 3:14pm

It was 25 years ago today that the People's Liberation Army rolled into Tiananmen Square to end a student movement that had briefly raised hopes of democratic reform in the world's most populous nation. The event sent shockwaves around the world - not least in Hong Kong, which was eight years away from its handover from Britain to China.

Watch: Hong Kong hosts China's largest -- and only -- 25th anniversary Tiananmen remembrance rally

Since then, Hongkongers have marked the crackdown with a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park on June 4 - the only major public commemoration of the event on Chinese soil. Tonight's vigil, organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, is expected to be the biggest in years, and reporters will be on hand to bring you the latest from the park.

Events in the park begin at 8pm, when Members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China's executive lay flowers for the victims and a torch is lit in the memory of the slain protesters.




More than two hundred protesters, the majority appearing to be university students holding banners of their student unions, marched down Hennessy Road, past Morrison Hill Road, towards the direction of the government headquarters after stand-off with police in front of Hysan Place that lasted for at least 20 minutes.

Policemen, also numbering in the hundreds, appeared to have allowed the protesters to go on after failing to stop them. The protesters moved slowly from Victoria Park, chanting slogans for redress.

Police cordoned off the protesters and broadcast warnings that the protesters are violating the permitted protesting hours and would be prosecuted for continuing.

Many onlookers said they have never seen so many policemen before. "Hong Kong police are so stupid. This is more policemen than protesters. If they just let them walk it'll be less hassle. Traffic wasn't jammed [because of the protesters] before, now the police made it jammed,," said a woman while watching the stand-off. No clashes occurred.


It wasn't just Hong Kong that saw a record turnout for the vigil. Macau's much smaller event in Senado Square attracted more than 2,000 people, reflecting a growing political consciousness in the normally placid former Potuguese enclave. Thousands turned out last month to protest against a lucrative retirement package for retiring officials and immunity from prosecution for the chief executive. The government was forced to back down.


Mainland human rights lawyer Teng Biao was among the speakers as he attended the vigil for the first time. Speaking after addressing thousands of Hongkongers in Victorian Park, Teng said he wished he could see a gathering like this in Beijing.

"I hope one day Chinese citizens will have the freedom of protest, which is a right protected by the Chinese constitution, as well as a basic human right. However, many human rights activists in China have sacrificed their freedom for trying to pursue this right. Some have even lost their lives for it," Teng told the South China Morning Post.

Teng has observed a change in the tactics used in Beijing's crackdown on activists since March this year. "It used to focus on maintaining stability, but now it is becoming like a cleansing," he said. 
Teng thinks the tightening grip on activists shows that the Beijing government feels more threatened by the intensifying conflicts in mainland China, and that President Xi Jinping does not plan to lead China towards democracy.
"June 4 cannot be rehabilitated until China becomes a democracy," Teng said.


As Victoria Park clears, protesters continue to march on Canton Road in Tsim Sha Tsui after a rival march organised by radical lawmaker Wong Yuk-man.


Police say attendance for the Victoria Park vigil peaked at 99,500 tonight, as against the 180,000 claimed by the organisers. In 2012, police put the figure at 85,000.


The Goddess of Democracy has become the symbol of the 1989 protests in Beijing and an icon to protesters in Hong Kong




While events at Victoria Park end, the protest in Tsim Sha Tsui is still ongoing. The Communist Party flag is burnt by protesters and the rally's organiser, firebrand lawmaker Wong Yuk-man, urges those present to march onto nearby Canton Road. The crowd is now gathering near the Tsim Sha Tsui ferry pier.




Lee says the alliance will hold a further protest in two days, marking the second anniversary of the death of mainland dissident Li Wangyang, at the central government's liaison office in Sai Wan. The Labour Party organiser ends the speech by urging those present to return for the pro-democracy march on July 1 and to visit the alliance's museum in Tsim Sha Tsui, the world's only exhibition devoted to the June 4 crackdown.

The gathering ends with the signing of a Cantonese song set to the tune of Do You Hear The People Sing, a song from the musical Les Miserables which has been adopted by protesters in the city.


Alliance chairman Lee Cheuk-yan says there are more than 180,000 people in Victoria Park, "more than any other year". "Let's show our sea of lights to [President] Xi Jinping! fight till the end!" he urges the crowd.

The previous best turnout came in 2012, when organisers put the figure at about 180,000.


Federation of Students secretary general Alex Chow Yong-kang is the next to speak.

About 1.5 million Hong Kong people took to the streets after June 4, moved by the students' bravery. "It has been 25 years. Do Hong Kong people still have the same boldness?"

Everyone can bring changes to society like "tank man" Wang Weilin, by participating in this month's public referendum on reform and the Occupy Central movement, Chow says.

There are cries of "let our singing fill Causeway Bay" and "democracy will win the battle" from the crowd".




Mainland rights lawyer Teng Biao is now speaking. He says the crackdown by the authorities is continuing on dissidents and those who defend human rights.

"But as Hong Kongers say: you can't kill us all," he adds, repeating a slogan often heard after a triad-style attack on former Ming Pao newspaper editor Kevin Lau earlier this year. He urged Hongkongers to support the Occupy Central movement, which plans to block streets in the city unless the government comes up with plans for democratic reform.


Before his speech, the crowd saw a video featuring leaders of the 1989 democracy movement. One of the student leaders, Feng Congde, said in the video that Hong Kong was the frontline for the defence of human rights and the rule of law.
"Hong Kong can't retreat. Hong Kong must fight for democracy and universal suffrage," he said.

Another student leader, Yan Jiaqi, said the annual vigil was a fight for justice and the defence of freedom of speech


The atmosphere is rather less solemn at the night's other rally. In Tsim Sha Tsui, radical pan-democratic activist Wong Yeung-tat, one of the organisers of the nativist rally, is speaking. He is leading the crowd in chants of "Overthrow the Communist Party" and demanding that the public be allowed to nominate candidates for the 2017 chief executive election. He also urges the thousands present to occupy the Legislative Council building.


A video tribute to the Tiananmen Mothers, the support group for those who died in 1989, is now being played. In it, one of the group's founders, Ding Zilin says: "It has been a painful journey of life." For the first two years after her son, Jiang Jielian, died, life became unbearable. The mothers have lost their family members as well as freedom, the video says.




Mak Hoi-wah, vice-chairman of vigil organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, is the first speaker to take to the stage in Victoria Park. "In the last 25 years, Hong Kong people have not forgotten that the Chinese government used tanks and machine guns to crack down on peaceful protesters," he says. He tells Hongkongers never to forget June 4 and keep fighting until the end.

Meanwhile thousands of Hongkongers are still waiting to get into the park. Reporters say Great George Street is crammed all the way to the Sogo department store on the junction with Hennessy Road.


While events in Victoria Park are well under way, the alternative rally in Tsim Sha Tsui is only just starting, more than half an hour late, due to a bigger than expected crowd. Organisers are putting the turnout at between 6 and 7,000 and say they have distributed 4,000 leaflets. Proceedings are beginning with a three-minute silence.


While tens of thousands of Hongkongers remembers June 4, 1989, the day passes normally at the scene of that day's bloody crackdown. Post reporters in Beijing report that the daily sunset flag-lowering ceremony in the capital passes without incident, watched by many onlookers. Security is always tight in the square, but reporters there say there is no sign of additional policing for the sensitive anniversary.

In Hong Kong, the vigil hears the names of mothers of crackdown victims who have died recently. Those in attendance bow three times, in honour of the deceased




Victoria Park's grass lawn is also packed, as students present floral tributes at the Goddess of Democracy statue, a replica of the monument built in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago. The names and ages of scores of those killed in the crackdown are being read out.




The candles are held in the air as the last songs are sung before the speeches begin. A moment's silence has also been held to honour the hundreds, perhaps thousands, who died in the bloody crackdown 25 years ago today.





Candles are held aloft by tens of thousands of people in Victoria Park as the vigil gets under way. People are singing songs commemorating the democracy campaigners killed on June 4, 1989.

Meanwhile lawmaker Wong Yuk-man says more than 2,000 people are at his rival rally in Tsim Sha Tsui, which has yet to start.


All six of Victoria Park's football pitches are full and the crowds are piling onto the grass lawn as the start of the vigil approaches, reporters on the scene say.


With the vigil set to begin shortly, people attending are explaining their reasons to join in.

Huang Nai-cheng, an engineer from Shenzhen, says he is grateful for Hongkongers' persistence over the years and that he will never forget the candlelight vigil in Victoria Park as long as he lived.
"It is very dreadful for a country to erase its history," said Huang as he struggled to hold back tears. "Hong Kong is the only place in China for us to speak this piece of truth out."

Meanwhile, Libby Cheung, a 23-year-old stage manager, is attending the rival 'nativist' rally in Tsim Sha Tsui.

"I want the whole attitude to political power [on the mainland] to change, rathern than just vindicating the [1989] movement. I also want universal suffrage for Hong Kong," she said.
Cheung had attended the Victoria Park rally three times in the past, but saw no contradiction in going to Tsim Sha Tsui this time.
"There's no contradiction between the two but I want more for our local interest," she said. But she did not agree with the slogan chosen by organisers, which says vindication of the student movement is 'not needed'. "I think everyone wants to vindicate the June 4 protest. The wording is a bit inappropriate,"


People are crowding into Victoria Park with the rally approaching fast. All six of Victoria Park's soccer pitches are full, organisers say, and there are reports of long queues at the entrance to the park from Causeway Bay. People are now being allowed onto the park's grass lawns. We're also told that internet access is slow as thousands of people try to update social networks and contact friends.



Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is speaking to and praying with people attending the vigil in Victoria Park. The Catholic leader has for years been one of the city's most high-profile advocates for democratic reform.

Zen prayed for democracy in China as well as the release of dissidents, including hundreds of Catholics.
In a speech, Zen said Homgkongers were responsible for calling for accountability over the June 4 massacre.
Apparently referring to pro-Beijing groups, Zen said: "Some people said 'It's been 25 years, don't ask for responsibility [over what happened].' But can we [not] do so? The murderers have not admitted their faults nor apologised, can we let those heroes bear the name of being rioters forever?"
Zen said he would be attending the candlelight vigil at the park tonight.


Meanwhile reporters say scuffles briefly broke out at the rival 'nativist' rally in Tsim Sha Tsui


The vigil in Victoria Park is not the only even tonight. So called "nativists" - people who believe in putting Hong Kong first and seeking a breakaway from China - are putting on their own event outside the Cultural Centre in Tsim Sha Tsui. Led by firebrand lawmaker Wong Yuk-man - a former member of People Power and the League of Social Democrats, now sitting as an independent, the campaigners are displaying a banner reading "Don't need vindication of the June 4 protest; I want to overthrow the [Communist Party]". As reported earlier, Wong's former colleagues in People Power, as well as other radical groups in the pan-democratic camp, are sticking with the Victoria Park vigil despite their disagreements with more moderate pan-democrats over political reform.

Reporter Johnny Tam is on the scene and will provide updates on the blog and on his Twitter account.



The vigil is not just an event for Hongkongers. Mainlanders, expatriates and visitors from around the world join the proceedings in Victoria Park just over an hour from now.



Vigil events start at 8pm, but reporters on the scene say the park is already filling with hundreds of school pupils in uniform and supporters clad in black.

The MTR has announced some special arrangements for stations around Victoria Park which might be of interest to those heading to the vigil.

From 7pm, exits A1 (King's Road), A2 (Electric Road) of Tin Hau station, and Exit E (Great George Street) of Causeway Bay station are for EXIT only. Exit B (Tin Hau Temple Road) of Tin Hau station is for entry only. Trains will run at three-minute intervals on the Island Line from 7.30pm until 11.30pm, and at 3.5 minute intervals on the Tsuen Wan Line bound for Central from 7.15pm to 11.30pm.

Meanwhile outside Causeway Bay station, former People Power chairman Christopher Lau Gar-hung urged the public to join the vigil. People Power has had its differences with other pan-democrats over political reform, but has remained supportive of the vigil.


Besides its importance as a night of remembrance, the June 4 vigil also offers an opportunity for pan-democratic groups to raise funds. Groups including the Civic Party, People Power and Scholarism are selling T-shirts and other merchandise in Great George Street, the main approach road to the park from Causeway Bay.



Remember you can join the discussion on Twitter using hashtag #HKJune4 or in the comments section below.


We're now two hours away from the main events of the vigil and crowds are beginning to build in the park under clear, blue skies - quite a contrast to last year's vigil, which was hit by rain and thunderstorms.

Local and international media are also out in force. CNN has a crew of 10 at the scene, the biggest team the US broadcaster has sent to the vigil since the 20th anniversary, according to reporters.

Meanwhile a video by Beijing loyalists in defence of the crackdown is not going down well with those attending the vigil. Eddie Wong, a retired producer, said the Voice of Loving Hong Kong campaigners were being paid to defend the June 4 crackdown.

"The videos they show are heavily edited to fool the public. No one will believe no one has died [in Tiananmen]," he said. "These people would not influence  other Hongkongers."


Arrests at the Tin Hau end of the park, near where a pro-Beijing group is showing a video defending the crackdown. Reporters on the scene say police have moved in to keep members of the Voice of Loving Hong Kong and democracy supporters apart. It is unclear who was arrested.

Watch: Groups clash with pro-Beijing group ahead of Hong Kong's June 4 vigil; one arrested





Reporter Tanna Chong spotted this at Times Square in Causeway Bay






Reporters Tanna Chong, Jeffie Lam and Tony Cheung will be tweeting the latest from the vigil. You can join the debate using the hashtag #HKJune4