Thousands mourn Tiananmen victims in Hong Kong
HONG KONG, June 4 (Reuters) Tens of thousands of people waved candles, chanted slogans and sang songs in Hong Kong today evening to remember the victims of the crackdown in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square 17 years ago.
''Reverse the verdict on June 4th. The people will not forget.
Long live democracy,'' chanted the crowd, which organisers estimated to be 44,000 strong but police put at about 19,000. Such gatherings have been held annually since 1989.
Hong Kong and the former Portuguese enclave of Macau are the only places in China where people are allowed to commemorate the hundreds, possibly thousands, killed when China's Communist leaders sent tanks and infantry to crush the student-led protests that started in April 1989.
Hong Kong was transferred to Chinese rule from British rule in 1997, and Macau from Portugal in 1999.
''Hong Kong has a responsibility to sustain this event because Hong Kong is the only place in China that allows people to strive for freedom and democracy,'' said Dennis Leung, a 22-year-old university student attending for the first time.
In the wake of the crackdown, the Chinese government condemned the protests as a ''counter-revolutionary rebellion''. There has never been a public acounting of those killed.
Lee Wing-tat, head of Hong Kong's Democratic Party, said: ''I have confidence that sooner or later there will be a correct judgment'' of the student movement. ''I am confident that they will make right from wrong in my lifetime.'' Organisers of the vigil laid a wreath before a temporary memorial resembling the Monument to the People's Heroes, the centre of the 1989 student occupation of Tiananmen Square.
They also played recordings of Ding Zilin, whose son was shot dead on the night of June 3-4, 1989, and who represents the Tiananmen Mothers group of victims families, and Wang Dan, one of the student leaders now in exile in the United States.
This year's organisers also sought to show support through the vigil for an emerging ''rights protection'' movement in China.
''In the past year, on the one hand we have seen those in power increase their political control, including the blocking of the Internet, which has made us completely lose hope in the so-called new Hu-Wen government,'' Wang said in a video.
''But on the other hand, we have also seen a vigorous rights protection movement unfold on the mainland, with lawyers as the leading figures. At the same time, with local level elections just getting started, we have also seen more and more people enthusiastically exercising their civic rights.
''In other words, under the flag of the democracy movement, China's future is still full of light.'' REUTERS SRS RAI2126