Tiananmen vigil ignored by some Hong Kong activists amid ideological split

Thousands gather every year to mark Chinas brutal suppression of pro-democracy protests but some say the vigils message is growing irrelevant

Tiananmen vigil ignored by some Hong Kong activists amid ideological split

Young activists will turn their backs on Hong Kongs commemoration of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown on Saturday amid growing calls in the city for greater autonomy from China.

The vigil, which each year draws tens of thousands of people, has caused a widening rift in Hong Kongs pro-democracy camp between those who believe the victims of the crackdown should be remembered and those who see the events message as increasingly irrelevant.

Semi-autonomous Hong Kong is the only location on Chinese soil to see a major commemoration to mark the militarys brutal crushing of pro-democracy protests in central Beijing in 1989, with residents gathering en masse in Victoria Park every year.

But young activists from the new localist movement say Hong Kong should push for its own autonomy, even independence, rather than the democratisation of the mainland, which is part of the vigils main message.

Localism grew out of the failure of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 to gain concessions from China on political reform for Hong Kong.

A growing number of student groups have now broken away from the event, saying organisers have lost touch with Hong Kongers aspirations.

Althea Suen, the president of the Hong Kong University student union, said: For this generation, we want to put emphasis on fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

Suen said building a democratic China was not our responsibility.

The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a founding member of the alliance that organises the vigil, will also not participate this year. The alliance has lost touch with Hong Kongers, said member Jocelyn Wong. The candlelight vigil has not made any progress in the past 27 years.

Hong Kong University and the Chinese University of Hong Kong will hold alternative forums at the same time as the vigil on Saturday.

The Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which organises the vigil, said although it had not achieved its ultimate goal of getting Chinese authorities to admit to the crackdown, it had helped keep the memory alive.

Richard Tsoi of the alliance said if the vigil was axed, Tiananmen would be rendered a non-issue due to repression from Beijing.

Hundreds by some estimates more than a thousand died after the Communist party sent tanks to crush demonstrations in the square in the heart of Beijing, where student-led protesters had staged a peaceful seven-week sit-in to demand democratic reforms.

The crackdown was branded a counter-revolutionary rebellion by Chinese authorities and many on the mainland remain unaware of it.

Tsoi hopes for a turnout of more than 100,000 people, similar to numbers in recent years. The alliance said 135,000 attended last years event.

Some student groups have backed the vigil, saying it helped politicise a new generation and have organised forums to explain its impact to Hong Kongers.

A supportive petition was also signed by 300 representatives of various city groups, including legislators.

A large white banner emblazoned with Never forget June 4, see you at Victoria park, was displayed on a rocky hillside on Friday morning, but was quickly removed by firefighters.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/04/tiananmen-vigil-ignored-by-some-hong-kong-activists-amid-ideological-split