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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Hong Kong students start vote on Tiananmen killings

April 15, 2009

By James Pomfret
Reuters
April 14, 2009

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong student union is holding
a student vote on whether China should apologize
for its crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in
and around Beijing's Tiananamen Square 20 years
ago in which hundreds were killed.

While China has tried to whitewash any
commemoration or mention of June 4, formerly
British-ruled Hong Kong has remained the only
city on Chinese soil where annual June 4 vigils,
remembrances and protests are tolerated.

Faced with growing student indifference, the Hong
Kong University Student Union kicked off the
three-day vote on whether China should "rectify"
its verdict that the June 4 protests were
counter-revolutionary and that killings were justified.

"After 20 years of denial and injustice, the
world has had enough," the union said in explaining the need for a referendum.

"As the heirs to those who have fought and died
for the freedoms which we now enjoy, we all share
a duty to step forward on their behalf lest all their sacrifices be in vain."

The vote comes amid recent signs of on-campus
tensions in Hong Kong between democratic-minded
students and conservative elements wanting to
tone down the criticism of Beijing, particularly
among students from mainland China.

The demonstrations that drew more than a million
people on to Beijing's streets are now a fading
memory and the killings are still taboo in mainland Chinese media.

A so-called "democracy wall" on the University of
Hong Kong's campus used to raise awareness of
June 4 through photographs, essays and posters was recently vandalized.

Forums leading up to June 4 have also been proven
divisive with mainland students booed when
expressing views closely aligned with the
Communist Party, namely that the crackdown was necessary to maintain stability.

"Hong Kong is a place in China where people can
still openly remember June 4th," said Li Yiu-kee,
a student and committee member of the Hong Kong
Alliance in support of Patriotic Democratic
Movements in China which organizes a mass
candlelight vigil each year in a downtown park.

"If Hong Kong students in trying to use
democratic means to express their views on June
4th have these actions come under intimidation or
threats, it's very important that the government
protects this right," he told Reuters.

(Reporting by James Pomfret; Editing by Nick Macfie and Jeremy Laurence)

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