More than 120,000 people turned out for the June 4 vigil for victims of the Tiananmen crackdown, the lowest attendance in eight years.
Police estimated the crowd at 21,000 at its peak, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
Several student groups stayed away from the memorial, some opting to hold their own commemorations.
The organizing Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China said 125,000 attended the annual event in Victoria Park.
Alliance chairman Albert Ho said attendance can rise and fall but what is important is that people don’t waver in the cause.
He pushed back against accusations the remembrance has turned into a mere ritual.
A dozen men in black holding “Hong Kong Independence” banners stormed the stage shouting, “We don’t want to build a democratic China”.
They clashed briefly with alliance supporters before police arrived and restored order.
Student groups from the University of Hong Kong (HKU) and the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) marked the anniversary in their own way.
HKU said 1,000 students attended a memorial forum. CUHK put its own attendance at 1,600-strong.
Ho said many students came to the vigil despite a boycott by the Hong Kong Federation of Students.
The alliance said public fervor has not waned, saying donations this year are up 30 percent to HK$1.74 million (US$223,984), about the size of the 2014 contributions.
Lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong, a member of the standing committee, said the increase suggests stronger support for efforts to help the Tiananmen victims and their families.
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