Tiananmen Square crackdown
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About 550 people had joined Sunday’s march when it set off. Photo: Sam Tsang

Lowest turnout since 2008 for Hong Kong march in memory of June 4 crackdown

But organisers ‘satisfied’ with attendance, expecting the annual vigil next Sunday to be ‘biggest public assembly’ before Xi Jinping arrives in city

Hong Kong organisers said only 1,000 people turned up at an annual march on Sunday to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, the lowest official count since 2008, while the police said the turnout was 450 at its peak.

But Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, chairman of the event’s organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said he was still “satisfied” with it.

He said the alliance’s annual candlelight vigils tend to be more popular than the march, and he expected a large turnout at Victoria Park on June 4.
The events commemorate the central government’s crackdown on a protest in Beijing. Photo: Sam Tsang
“The vigil will be the biggest public [assembly] before President Xi Jinping arrives in Hong Kong in late June,” Tsoi said, in reference to the state leader’s trip to the city to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China.

“We need to express our dissatisfaction over Beijing’s one-party autocracy and interference in Hong Kong affairs.”

The march, one of the alliance’s two annual events, came a day after Zhang Dejiang, China’s No 3 state leader, told Hong Kong not to confront Beijing, and called on the local government to enact national security laws. Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where big events to mark the crackdown are allowed.

Voices from Tiananmen: Eyewitnesses look back to the spring of 1989

The events call for the release of human rights activists, and accountability over Beijing’s bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy sit-in at the heart of the capital on June 4, 1989. Though the exact death toll may never be known, hundreds, perhaps more than 1,000, were killed.

Yet, support has waned in recent years as more people, especially younger Hongkongers, believe the city should focus on its own fight for democracy rather than seeking it on the mainland.


Only 1,500 joined the march a year ago, according to organisers, compared with 3,000 in 2015.About 125,000 attended last year’s vigil, down from 135,000 in 2015.

One participant at Sunday’s march. Photo: Sam Tsang

Many at the march were middle-aged, but there were some younger participants, including Baptist University student Yoyo Chan. “I think we can fight for democracy both on the mainland and in Hong Kong,” she said.

Also among the marchers were Ms Chung and her two daughters, aged nine and seven.

“How can you describe yourself as a strong country when you have yet to bear responsibility for slaughtering your own people?” the mother, who did not want to reveal her full name, asked.


Ng Pun-tuk, 81, said he attended the march and vigil every year to “support the democratic movement” in the city and on the mainland.

Pan-democratic groups including the Democratic Party and the Civic Party joined the march. Photo: Sam Tsang

Pro-Beijing groups “6.4 Truth” and Defend Hong Kong Campaign were also gathered outside Southorn Playground, the start of the march, where they accused the alliance of “deceiving Hongkongers”.


Traffic on Western Street was blocked for about 25 minutes when the marchers arrived and demanded that police let them proceed along the street.

A minor scuffle broke out, but eventually the participants were allowed to go up Western Street, and ended the march at Beijing’s liaison office in Sai Wan.

Ms Chung said ‘Beijing should apologise to the victims’ families’. Photo: Tony Cheung
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lowest turnout for Tiananmen march since 2008