As government officials continued to stifle any attempts to mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre on the Chinese mainland, thousands of people held a vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park on Wednesday in remembrance of the violent crackdown.
Organizers told the Associated Press that more than 180,000 people gathered for the event, with most holding candles as the crowd spilled into nearby streets.
Many of the attendees were clad in black T-shirts and kept their heads slightly bowed as music played aloud and torches were lighted in memory of the hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy protesters who were injured or killed during the 1989 clash.
“By attending this event, it helps remind people what the truth is, what we know and what we remember back in 1989,” Mau Kin-Lok told Radio Free Asia in a video posted to YouTube. “Showing respect to the students is what I can do now.”
The public display in Hong Kong stood in stark contrast to the day’s events on the mainland, where troops in fatigues and uniformed police officers monitored Tiananmen Square, chasing away journalists and stopping any attempts to strike up a conversation about the bloody event.
Large video screens displayed Communist Party slogans throughout the square, while the state media has blocked any mention of the anniversary and removed messages regarding the event from the Internet, including, in some cases, messages simply containing the number 25.
While the Hong Kong display seemed largely peaceful, a pro-Beijing group also planned a counter demonstration on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported.
The Voice of Loving Hong Kong was set to express support of the 1989 military crackdown near the park’s entrance, reports said.
In the U.S., the White House released an official statement calling on the Communist Party to acknowledge its past mistakes.
“Twenty-five years ago, the United States deplored the use of violence to silence the voices of the peaceful demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square,” the statement read. “Twenty-five years later, the United States continues to honor the memories of those who gave their lives in and around Tiananmen Square and throughout China, and we call on Chinese authorities to account for those killed, detained, or missing in connection with the events surrounding June 4, 1989.”
Times staff writers Julie Makinen and Barbara Demick in Beijing contributed to this report.
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