Hundreds of protesters who took part in the 1967 riots were hailed as heroes in a memorial ceremony Sunday to mark the 50th anniversary of the uprising.
The 67 Synergy Group joined more than 120 participants in paying tribute to the workers who died in the riots, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.
In all, 51 people died, 800 were injured and 2,000 were arrested during the seven-month period.
Former finance sector lawmaker Ng Leung-sing and the Federation of Trade Unions’ Michael Luk Chung-hung were among the attendees.
Participants observed a minute of silence and laid flowers at the graves of the 16 protesters who died in the violence.
Ng described the rioters as heroes, saying they were simply protesting against the abuses of the British colonial administration.
Ng said it is time to “shed light” on the events, adding he has asked Beijing to review the incident. Ng’s father was reportedly arrested during the riots.
The group’s head, Chan Shi-yuen, said the protesters did nothing wrong and urged the public to remember them as heroes.
He said the death of Commercial Radio commentator Lam Bun, who was burned alive, is still a question mark as there is no conclusion as to who was responsible for the murder.
Tong Kang-yiu, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, said the movement was triggered by the dissatisfaction of workers toward the oppressive regime of the colonial government.
Toward the end of the riots, the government was forced to enact the first Employment Ordinance and improved various aspects in education and healthcare.
Tong said the rioters paid a heavy price in return for the improvements and that their names should be cleared.
Cheung Ka-wai, a scholar on the riots, said it is important not to forget the violent nature of the rioting and that holding tributes could risk evoking negative feelings among the public.
The riots broke out because of a labor dispute at an artificial flower factory in San Po Kong and events quickly escalated into violence.
Anti-riot squads used tear gas and arrested hundreds during the large-scale demonstrations and dozens of workers died during the clashes.
Meanwhile, veteran journalist Ching Cheong said the Chinese government has become more left-leaning in recent years, with President Xi Jinping refusing to denounce the Cultural Revolution on its 50th anniversary last year.
Ching suspects that if Beijing continues to tip toward the leftists, it could reaffirm the Cultural Revolution and vindicate the 1967 riots as well.
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