HONG KONG, June 4 (UPI) — More than 100,000 people gathered in Hong Kong on Saturday to remember the Tiananmen Square massacre 27 years after the bloody incident.
The South China Morning Post reported about 125,000 came out to pay respects to those who were killed by the Chinese military on June 4, 1989 during a pro-democracy protest. The vigil took place at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park.
Activists in the city, especially those belonging to The Hong Kong Alliance in Support of patriotic Democratic Movements in China, have long pushed China to admit the protesters were not rioters.
“In the history of mankind, there have never been so many people for so many years gathered in the same venue to protest,” said Albert Ho Chung-yan, a leader of the alliance group, according to USA Today. “We are proud of Hong Kong,” he added.
China has yet to change its official statements about the incident, which left scores of protesters dead.
Meanwhile, in mainland China, known activists have reportedly been detained ahead of the anniversary and websites referring to the event have been blocked, according to Australia’s ABC News.
On June 4, 1989, heavily armed troops supported by tanks and other heavy weaponry descended on thousands of young pro-democracy activists occupying Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Following the incident, which left a still unknown, unofficial number of students and other protesters dead, an official statement from the Beijing Government Martial Law Headquarters called the occupation a “counter-revolutionary rebellion,” and called the protesters “thugs” who attacked military personnel.
“In order to protect people’s interests, life and property and to enforce martial law, the PLA was forced to take stern measures and severely punish the small group of ruffians and clean up [Tiananmen] square,” an editorial in the People’s Libertarian Army Daily newspaper said directly following the attack, according to a report from former UPI writer Mark S. Del Vecchio. “All the measures the PLA took are legal.”
The Tiananmen Square incident was heavily reported on by western media, many members of whom were present at the protest.
UPI reporter David R. Schweisberg outlined the night’s battle between Chinese riot police and those demanding freedom in a harrowing report, saying the thousands of protesters sang “emotionally” into the dark in support of their dream of freedom.
“An American television producer poked up her head and camera and the soldiers forming lines around the north end of the square loosed rounds above her head. Many in the crowds began fleeing,” Schweisberg wrote.
“By 5 a.m., at least 10 armored personnel carriers crushed the students’ tents as several hundred students huddled on the steps of the monument.”
“One young man had a bloody gash on his forehead. Another wore a towel around his neck damp with bright blood. A few limped.” the report went on.
“By mid-morning, the square was empty of the crowds who were replaced by a sea of green uniforms, at least a dozen tanks and assorted trucks and armored personnel carriers which gave the appearance of a military parade.”