Some 2,000 people turned out to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in Hong Kong yesterday, in a march that also carried broadly pro-democratic overtones amid what is widely seen as Beijing’s slowly tightening grip on the semi-autonomous city.
Marchers on Sunday carried yellow umbrellas — the symbol of the city’s protracted pro-democracy protests in 2014 — bearing the slogan “Support Freedom, Oppose Evil Laws,” the AP reported.
The message appeared to be an oblique reference to a controversial bill currently before the Legislative Council that would allow, for the first time since the handover, extradition from Hong Kong to the mainland, Taiwan, and Macau. The bill has faced criticism from an unlikely coalition of pro-democracy activists, lawyers, businesspeople, foreign governments, and members of the clergy, but pro-Beijing Hong Kong officials have proven unwilling to consider most suggested amendments, let alone withdraw the controversial legislation.
Marchers also carried a papier mache tank bearing a Communist-style red star and the number “64,” a reference to the date of the infamous massacre — June 4, 1989 — which saw the People’s Liberation Army turn its guns on pro-democracy student protesters occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Any mention of the crackdown is tightly policed on the mainland, but Hong Kong enjoys special freedoms under the “one country, two systems” policy enacted after it was returned to China by Britain.
The march was organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which also operates a Tiananmen Square museum in Hong Kong that has been the site of pro-Beijing protests, bizarre sit-ins, and even vandalism since moving to a new location in Kowloon this year.
Indeed a much smaller contingent of pro-Beijing counter-protesters turned out yesterday, waving placards and chanting slogans in support of the crackdown, in which hundreds were killed.
The march also passed the Liaison Office of the Central People’s Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, where one activist threw fake money into the air, and burned props at a makeshift altar to those killed at Tiananmen Square.
Organizer Albert Ho, who is chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, made the march’s oblique connection to the extradition bill explicit yesterday in an interview with AP.
“Recently, we are facing the challenge of this [bill], which affects our basic freedom and liberty,” he said.
“The dedication and the commitment to fight for democracy and human rights is the only way out.”