Almost 150,000 people attended a rally in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park today, in commemoration of the attack on the protesters in Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, 1989. Those at the rally lit candles and sang in memory of those who lost their lives 22 years ago. Pre-recorded footage by the Tiananmen mothers — who all lost someone killed during the 1989 protests — was shown. Activists described the human rights situation as deteriorating even more this year, as Chinese authorities have clamped down and arrested dissidents, lawyers and others including world-renowned artist Ai WeiWei.
Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal reports:
In a sign of the issues on the minds of many attendees, vendors outside the park sold T-shirts with references to artist Ai Weiwei, an outspoken critic of the Chinese government who has been detained for more than a month, and the Jasmine Revolution — an allusion Tunisia’s revolution and to calls for political reform.
As a special administrative unit of China, Hong Kong has its own laws and a rally has been held every year since 1989. Such gatherings are forbidden on the Chinese mainland.
Organizers from the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China said that the situation in China is the darkest it has been in the past 22 years as the Chinese government has been using the uprisings in the Middle East to “justify their heavy-handed tactics ‘outside of the law.’” The Alliance’s Chairman, Lee Cheuk-yan, said that the June 4 vigils are attracting more and more attention from mainland visitors to Hong Kong.
Earlier last week, 127 of the Tiananmen Mothers had signed a letter about the situation in China, says the Wall Street Journal:
…[the letter says] a security official had approached one of the mothers in February to discuss the possibility of financial compensation, without any mention of carrying out judicial investigations or accepting responsibility. The letter said that turmoil in the Middle East and other countries have stoked such fear among Chinese authorities that the human rights situation in China is the worst it has been since 1989.
In Taiwan, some 500 people gathered in Taipei’s Liberty Square, formerly named after the dictator Chiang Kai-Shek; the square was renamed during Taiwan’s 2007 democracy movement:
a statement Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou called for the release of detained dissidents Liu Xiaobo and Ai Weiwei as a “first step” toward political reform. He said China’s “spotty track record” on human rights and democracy stood in stark contrast to its recent economic growth, isolating it from the international community and harming Chinese society.
“Taiwan’s experience in transitioning from an authoritarian state to a democracy shows that reform, while not painless, is certainly no disaster. Rather, it is a new beginning. It brings stability and progress, and builds trust in the government,” he said. “As we look back upon the June 4th incident, we urgently hope the mainland Chinese authorities will have the courage to undertake political reforms and promote the development of freedom, democracy, human rights, and rule of law.”
Below is a video of Tiananmen mother Ding Zilin speaking to the June 4 vigil in Hong Kong.
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