Hundreds Join Hong Kong Tiananmen March

The Associated Press
Sunday, May 27, 2007; 12:23 PM

HONG KONG -- Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Hong Kong on Sunday to commemorate the Tiananmen Square protests 18 years ago, angry over comments from a lawmaker who appeared to take China's side in the crackdown.

Walking through heavy rain, the demonstrators chanted slogans condemning the lawmaker, Ma Lik, who disputed witness accounts of the June 4, 1989, crackdown, saying Chinese troops did not fire indiscriminately at protesters.

Organizers said about 1,500 people took part in the march, which has been held every year since 1989 on the Sunday before June 4. Police put the figure at 1,000.

On the Chinese mainland, public commemorations are forbidden and police tighten their normally intense vigilance of Tiananmen Square. Family members of those killed gather quietly in cemeteries or at each other's homes.

Twelve-year-old demonstrator Tse Tsz-wai said he suggested to his father that they join after hearing about Ma's remarks, made earlier this month.

"I learned about the crackdown from my parents and teachers. What Ma said was not right," Tse said.

Ma has acknowledged his comments might have been "rash and frivolous," but insisted there was no massacre.

Journalists and other witnesses have said troops opened fire with machine guns and tanks ran over protesters, killing hundreds, perhaps thousands. Numerous news photos showed bloody bodies crumpled in the streets.

The Chinese government maintains it quelled counter-revolutionary protests that threatened national security.

Peter Lee, a civil servant, said he also took to the street this year because of Ma's remarks.

"The crackdown is a very complicated issue. How can he say something like that?" the 40-year-old said. "I'm very sad and angry about his comments. Ma Lik is shameless."

The 1989 demonstrations in Beijing marked a watershed for Hong Kong. The territory was a British colony living on borrowed time, awaiting an already agreed upon return to China in 1997. The pro-democracy movement provided a heartening moment for Hong Kong residents, who mounted huge demonstrations in support.

Many in Hong Kong donated money and supplies to the demonstrators. When news of the killings reached the territory, over a million poured onto the streets in protest.

The crushing of the demonstrations in Beijing dashed hopes in Hong Kong about the prospects for democratic reform by China's rulers. In negotiating Hong Kong's return from Britain, the government in Beijing guaranteed the territory autonomy, which so far has meant these commemorations continue.

A separate candle light vigil is also held every June 4 in Hong Kong _ a Chinese territory that is the only place in the country where such a large, public display is allowed.

© 2007 The Associated Press