Hongkongers are preparing to mark the 29th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on Monday with organisers of the annual candlelight vigil at Victoria Park vowing not to stop calling for an end to one-party rule in mainland China, regardless of any “red line” drawn by Beijing.
In addition to commemorating June 4 by demanding the vindication of the pro-democracy student movement of 1989, they will also pay tribute to dissident and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who died nearly a year ago.
Chow Hang-tung, vice-chairwoman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, is set to reject recent warnings from pro-Beijing forces that shouting slogans in favour of “ending one-party dictatorship” may cross a “new red line”.
“If one-party dictatorship continues, China will not have real democracy. Hong Kong will not have real freedom,” Chow said in a pre-released speech. “We cannot give you all a road map … we must at least dare to stand up and shout, ‘we want to end one-party dictatorship’.”
Veteran pro-establishment politician Tam Yiu-chung, a delegate to China’s top legislative body, had earlier suggested those shouting such slogans could risk disqualification when running for election, after constitutional changes on the mainland affirming the ruling Communist Party’s leadership.
The alliance has also chosen “Resist Authoritarianism” as one of its main slogans.
As the only city in China, along with Macau, where public gatherings to mark June 4 are allowed, Hong Kong attracts large crowds of citizens and visitors annually at Victoria Park, although attendance has dwindled over the years.
Organisers are estimating a turnout of 100,000 to 150,000 at the vigil, despite a boycott by university student unions for the fourth year in a row.
Alice Cheung Sin-ying of the Hong Kong Federation of Students said the unions would not host any separate public event on Monday due to a “shortage of manpower”, although they would still echo the 1989 student movement’s calls for democracy.
“What we don’t quite agree with is joining the vigil hosted by the alliance,” she said.
The students’ federation, however, will instead join a fundraiser near Victoria Park for Hong Kong independence advocates recently jailed over the Mong Kok riot.
Sociology professor Chan Kin-man, a leader of the 2014 Occupy protests who will host a dialogue with students during the vigil, said the unions were less antagonistic towards the alliance but conceded their fight for democracy had hit a low.
“Just like cycling against the wind, we keep our heads low and bite the bullet, then regroup ourselves to tackle the wind,” Chan said.
Hong Kong Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, a former member of the Democratic Party, refused to say whether he would attend the vigil, only reiterating that he did not want his presence to be an issue.
Executive councillor Ronny Tong Ka-wah, a former opposition politician, said he would attend if his busy schedule allowed.