Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Thursday, 4 June 2009 19:27 UK

Hong Kong holds Tiananmen vigil

Thousands attend candlelight vigil in Hong Kong

A vigil marking 20 years since the Tiananmen massacre has been held in Hong Kong, the only part of China to commemorate the event.

An estimated 150,000 people gathered in Victoria Park for the annual event, which was addressed by one of the 1989 student leaders, Xiong Yan.

Other Tiananmen veterans were banned from entering the territory.

In Washington, nine exiled former student leaders said their pursuit of a democratic China continued.

James Reynolds
Plain clothes officers used a novel technique to stop us from filming in Tiananmen Square - the umbrella treatment...
James Reynolds
BBC Beijing correspondent

"We are calling on the generation of the 1989 massacre, both in China and overseas, as well as those who came before us and those who will come after us to work together and combine our strengths," the nine said in a joint statement read out by Wang Dan, one of China's most wanted men.

In Beijing, police sealed off Tiananmen Square for the anniversary with foreign journalists barred from the area.

At diplomatic level, China rejected a US call to investigate the massacre, and accused Washington of "political prejudices".

Open debate about the events of 4 June 1989, in which troops killed hundreds or even thousands of people during a pro-democracy demonstration, is forbidden in mainland China, and the government has never held an official inquiry.

Record turnout

When the UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997, the territory retained its own legal system, including the right to protest.

Whether you like or not, the events ensured 20 years of fast economic growth
Beijing Netizen, Beijing

Thursday's gathering saw the biggest turnout for a Tiananmen anniversary ever recorded in Hong Kong, the BBC's John Simpson reports.

If the Beijing government hoped that by clamping down on all commemoration in mainland China, they could make people forget what happened, they were very wrong, our correspondent says.

On the contrary, it has underlined the lack of political freedom that there still is in China.

The Hong Kong authorities, like the Chinese government itself, knew it would have been absolutely unthinkable had they banned this commemoration.

But to please Beijing, the Hong Kong authorities did stop some of the Tiananmen exiles coming into the former colony, our correspondent says.

Thursday's star attraction was Xiong Yan, now an exile based in the US.

"Our hearts are hurting but we have a dream that in the not too distant future China's one party, authoritarian leadership will leave the stage," he told the rally.

Our correspondent says the scene in Hong Kong seems very reminiscent of Tiananmen Square itself 20 years ago, with the same sort of idealism, the same sort of youthful feeling.

The success of the Hong Kong rally means that China's hopes of sweeping the memory of the Tiananmen massacre under the carpet have come to nothing, he adds.

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