Twenty-three years after the world saw pro-democracy student protesters killed or maimed on June 4 in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, tens of thousands joined the Victoria Park candlelight vigil last night in a unified call: "Don't forget to remember."
Organizers estimated 180,000 turned up for the vigil, compared with 150,000 last year. Police put the attendance at the only mass commemoration on Chinese soil of the crackdown at 85,000 at its peak.
Young and old, families, tourists, expatriates and ethnic communities went hand-on-heart to light candles ringing the stage at the Causeway Bay park.
Two giant Goddesses of Democracy - one near the stage and the other at the center of the park - were bathed in light. To ease crowding, police opened the gate at the park's entrance near Tin Hau MTR station after they were criticized last year for closing it.
People sat, stood and clapped as they sang about the Chinese people's indomitable spirit. They hailed and stomped when pro-democracy icon Wang Dan and members of the Tiananmen Mothers group, plus Fang Zheng - disabled by a tank in the 1989 attack - either appeared in person or in recorded videos.
The crowds camped out in pavilions on six soccer fields, basketball courts and grass areas. Thousands more stood outside the packed park.
When the vigil ended at 10pm, thousands remained to mourn the dead.
Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun- ying's office director, Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fan, said she needed to hold a meeting last night and did not attend the vigil.
Asked why Leung did not comment on the pro-democracy movement yesterday, Law said since Leung is a chief executive under "One Country, Two Systems" it might not be inappropriate.
But Lee Cheuk-yan criticized Leung as "a chameleon."
"During the June 4th movement, Leung said he was disappointed over the crackdown. Now he is saying that Deng Xiaoping should have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize," Lee said.
The vigil began at 8pm with Fang, in Hong Kong for the first time, laying wreaths along with the organizer and chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, Lee Cheuk-yan, and other pan-democrats.
Fang, who lost his legs in the crackdown, told those present that the light of candles in the darkness of the park was like "an ocean full of love and consciousness."
He added: "As a survivor of the June 4 movement, I deeply thank you for your support.
"When I see the candlelight, I don't know what I should say as anything I say is meaningless."
Fang said when he came to Hong Kong, many citizens hailed him as a hero. "Indeed I feel ashamed. Twenty- three years ago, I was only an ordinary person joining the event and I had only fulfilled my responsibilities as a student."
The heroes were those who died in the crackdown, he said.
In a recorded video, Wang Dan, a leader of the 1989 protests, said he believes democracy will come to China if all can learn from the spirit of Burma's democracy fighter Aung San Suu Kyi.
Guo Liying, a member of Tiananmen Mothers, said: "Regardless of the changes in the political landscape, every day is like 23 years ago. The candlelight at Victoria Park has warmed our heart and the hearts of Tiananmen Mothers."
Mr and Mrs Yu, both teachers, said they brought along their two babies, 18 months and eight months.
"My children are too young to understand but at least they have an impression in their minds," said Mrs Yu, who was a toddler when her parents brought her to the vigil 23 years ago.
"They will remember what happened this year."
The Canadian headmaster of an international school, Douglas Anderson, who has lived in Hong Kong for 12 years, said: "I have been coming to the event for nine years, I will come every year. We must remind China that we will not forget."