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Tiananmen Ten Years On: 70,000 in Hong Kong protest

WHILE SECURITY forces on the Chinese mainland ensured there would be no mass gathering to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre yesterday, officials in Hong Kong did nothing to stop the traditional rally marking the event.

However, Hong Kong authorities remain unhappy at this mass display of defiance and banned 11 exiled dissidents from entering the territory to take part.

"In [China's] 9 million square miles, this is the only place you can hold an open rally," said Szeto Wah, a leader of Hong Kong's democracy movement.

The Tiananmen anniversary rally is an annual event in Hong Kong and yesterday's candlelit vigil was the biggest yet. Organisers claimed an attendance of 70,000, with numbers swelled because of the significance of the 10th anniversary.

The mood was sombre as people of all ages and social classes listened to speeches, sang patriotic songs and shouted slogans denouncing the government in Peking. Many of the participants had not attended any of the previous rallies. The Democratic Party leader, Martin Lee, said: "I'm happy to see so many parents bringing their young children to pass on to the next generation the truth about the massacre."

Although emotions ran high at the vigil, opinion polls suggest that a growing number of people - albeit a minority -would prefer to put Tiananmen behind them.

The Hong Kong government is committed to introducing anti-subversion legislation, which would probably outlaw rallies such as yesterday's, but it is proceeding with caution because of the backlash such laws would provoke.