Hong Kong activists split over participation in Tiananmen memorial | News | DW | 04.06.2016
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Hong Kong activists split over participation in Tiananmen memorial

Hong Kong's pro-democracy advocates are divided over whether to fight for democracy in China, or focus on Hong Kong. Activists seeking greater freedom from Beijing in 2014 were rebuffed by the regime.

For 27 years, pro-democracy activists have gathered in Hong Kong on June 4 to call on China to account for the hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy activists who disappeared or were killed when China's communist government sent the military into Tiananmen Square to crush the fledgling pro-democracy movement in 1989.

But now there's a growing backlash - in the form of a boycott - against the candlelight vigil among democracy advocates who say they need to focus more on Hong Kong's own struggle for democracy.

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"More and more student groups have broken away from the event, saying organizers have "lost touch" with Hong Kong residents' aspirations. For this generation, we want to put the emphasis on fighting for democracy in Hong Kong," said Althea Suen, president of the Hong Kong University Student Union (HKUSU).

Suen said building a democratic China was "not our responsibility."

The so-called "localist" movement grew out of Hong Kong's own failure to draw political concessions from Beijing during the island's own pro-democracy rallies in 2014. While the territory is a special administrative district that broadly enjoys democratic principles and a market economy, there is a growing sense that Beijing is encroaching on those values.

Even one of the vigil's original organizers, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, won't attend this year's memorial.

"The alliance has lost touch with Hong Kong's people," said Jocelyn Wong of HKFS. "The candlelight vigil has not made any progress in the past 27 years."

Vigil organizers remain steadfast

But the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, still a vigil organizer, said that even though the memorial has not achieved its goal of getting Beijing to admit to the bloody crackdown, it had helped keep the memory alive.

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Richard Tsoi of the alliance said if the vigil was axed, Tiananmen would be rendered a "non-issue" due to repression from Beijing.

Despite the criticism, tens of thousands were pouring into Victoria Park Saturday evening, and Tsoi is hopeful that at least 100,000 will turn out.

Meanwhile Chinese authorities detained at least six human rights' activists and placed others under surveillance as the anniversary approached. The Tiananmen Mothers, an association of parents who lost their children during the government's violent crackdown, are among those under surveillance.

They wrote an open letter slamming the "27 years of white terror and suffocation" at the hands of the government.

The NGO Human Rights Watch in China released the letter, which included this excerpt, "We, the victims' families, are eavesdropped upon and under police surveillance; we are followed or even detained, and our computers searched and confiscated."

bik/gsw (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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