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Activists Press Democracy in China

April 5, 1998

HONG KONG (AP) _ Hong Kong activists pressing for more democracy vowed Sunday to continue their annual commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown in China.

About 50 people representing various political, religious and social groups placed wreaths before a monument to commemorate those killed in the Chinese army’s attack on student-led democracy demonstrators.

The activists erected the monument and a statue modeled after the Statue of Liberty in a tourist district for Sunday’s Ching Ming Festival, when the Chinese traditionally visit their ancestors’ graves.

``Release dissidents. Reassess the 1989 democratic movement,″ the activists chanted.

Soldiers killed hundreds of dissidents in the June 4, 1989, crackdown in Beijing, and authorities jailed thousands of others. Nearly one in four people in Hong Kong protested at that time, and the issue remains sensitive here.

Several candidates in May 24 legislative elections have demanded a reevaluation of the crackdown. The election is the first since Hong Kong’s return from British to Chinese rule on July 1.

``Hong Kong people have not forgotten the people who were massacred. They have not died in vain,″ said Emily Lau, a candidate who is expected to be elected.

Activists plan to hold their annual candlelight vigil on June 4, said Cheung Man-kwong, vice chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China.

Alliance chairman Szeto Wah said the group is waiting for government permission for the vigil, which attracted 50,000 supporters last year. But he said the vigil would be held, even without government approval.

Human rights advocates are watching the government’s handling of the event for clues as to how tolerant the post-handover government is.

Last month, China’s new premier, Zhu Rongji, ruled out any reevaluation of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, squelching speculation that he differed with other Communist Party leaders on the issue.

But he also said protests will remain legal in Hong Kong, which under handover agreements is guaranteed a high degree of autonomy.

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