- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

HONG KONG Exercising freedoms denied to mainland Chinese, thousands of Hong Kong residents gathered yesterday for a candlelight vigil to mark the 13th anniversary of the military crackdown on protests in Tiananmen Square.

This year, World Cup soccer seemed to dominate the news, as fans abandoned offices, mahjong parlors and theaters to see China lose to Costa Rica in a match that ended hours before the twilight ceremonies in leafy Victoria Park.

In Beijing, where the regime suppresses all efforts to mark the anniversary, security was tighter than normal around Tiananmen Square. But there were no reports of protests in China, where most attention appeared focused on the World Cup.

Local media reported that 10,000 Hong Kong residents showed up to mourn the army assault that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unarmed demonstrators on June 4, 1989. Official attendance figures were not available. Last year, 40,000 participated.

"True patriotism is when you stand up for what you believe in, even if it costs you your life. I really respect the Tiananmen demonstrators, and I come each year to bow to them," said Stephanie Cheung, holding a flickering candle.

The annual rally began in 1989 when more than 1 million Hong Kong citizens gathered in protest. With the number dwindling to the thousands, lawmaker and rally organizer Szeto Wah urged those attending to educate the next generation to "take up the baton of democracy."

"No matter how difficult the road, we will achieve our goal of democracy for China," Mr. Szeto said.

The opposition Frontier Party issued a statement demanding that the central government stop suppressing dissidents on the mainland, who face harassment, prison or exile for defying a ban on public dissent.

The statement also urged Beijing to "reverse its verdict" on the June 4 protests, which Communist Party leaders branded an attempt to overthrow the government. The government contends troops had to restore stability by violently ending weeks of massive demonstrations demanding more political openness in China.

Chinese authorities, meanwhile, have detained 23 persons in a search for the source of secret documents said to have been used in "The Tiananmen Papers" a book published last year about the crackdown according to the Chinese civil servant said to have written the book, who uses the pen name Zhang Liang.

Writing in yesterday's edition of the independent newspaper Hong Kong Economic Journal, Mr. Zhang said security agents had been assigned to hunt for the source both inside and outside China. One police official confirmed that several people have been arrested in southwestern China's Sichuan province for having copies of the book.

While Chinese on the mainland must mark the anniversary in private, Hong Kong residents enjoy Western-style civil liberties, such as freedom of speech and assembly, under an autonomy arrangement set up when Britain handed the colony back to China on July 1, 1997.

Nearly five years later, many here prefer not to mention June 4, said the Hong Kong Economic Journal, which often carries commentaries by dissident writers, in a front-page editorial.


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