The annual June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to commemorate the victims of Beijing’s 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown saw much fewer participants on Thursday compared to recent years.
The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, organizer of the annual event, said about 135,000 people turned up for the vigil last night, compared with a record 180,000-plus people who took part in the activity last year.
It is said be the lowest turnout since 2009.
The police, meanwhile, put the number of attendees at 46,600 at the peak, down more than half from the 99,500 estimated last year.
Observers said the participation at Victoria Park fell as a new venue was set up on the campus of the University of Hong Kong (HKU) for the first time to mourn the victims of China’s June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy activists.
But even adding the figure from the HKU event, the total turnout this year for the commemoration was much lower than in previous years, Ming Pao Daily reported.
About 2,000 people are said to have shown up at the event organized by a group of HKU students.
The students organized an alternate event as they didn’t agree with the Victoria Park vigil organizer’s guiding principle of “building a democratic China”.
The Alliance chairman, Albert Ho, meanwhile sought to play down the reduced participation at their annual event.
The turnout of 135,000 is a very significant figure, and shows that Hong Kong people still care very much about June 4 incident, he said.
The Alliance changed the tone of the event this year to cater to young people by linking June 4 to the local pro-democracy movement.
It prompted people to sing “Raise your umbrellas”, the theme song of the Umbrella Movement last year, rather than mandarin songs for civil movement.
Yellow umbrellas, symbols of the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy movement in Hong Kong, could be seen at the event last night.
As for the HKU event, participants there mourned only for ten minutes before they proceeded to an academic forum. The students did not chant slogans or sing songs, unlike the gathering at Victoria Park.
Claiming that their only responsibility is to guard Hong Kong, HKU students union president Fung King-yun said the group is yet to decide whether to hold the June 4 event again next year.
A survey carried out by Ming Pao found that many people who came to the HKU event had been regular participants at the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park in the past.
Eighty-five percent of people polled said they had joined the annual vigil in the Victoria Park before. Half of them said they came to the HKU event as they wanted to mourn the June 4, 1989 victims but didn’t want to participate in the Alliance event.
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