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Thousands mark Tiananmen Square crackdown

HONG KONG — Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents, joined by a smattering of mainland Chinese, converged in central Victoria Park Tuesday to mark the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and vent anger at a Chinese leadership that has signaled its intent to broaden limited control over the territory.

Speakers shouted “down with the Communist Party” and “free elections for all citizens.”

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Such protests are effectively banned in mainland China, creating a draw for mainlanders.

“I came because you can’t commemorate this day on the mainland,” said one man, a former magazine editor who gave his name only as Li for self-protection. “Here you can soak up the democratic atmosphere.”

A 17-year-old student named Zheng from Guangdong Province was among several holding a flag of the Republic of China, whose leaders fled to Taiwan as the Communists took over the mainland in 1949. Wan Yun, 47, a Hong Kong resident from Hubei Province, laid out documents for a land dispute that she said had brought her a year in a labor camp.

After the rally was well underway, an intense, wind-whipped rainstorm descended, sending protesters scurrying for cover through flooded streets. But the rain abated a half-hour later, and the drenched throngs returned.

The annual demonstration is the most vivid display of the continuing passions over the 1989 crackdown on student protests in Beijing, an event whose name and date has been stricken by censors on mainland China. Armed soldiers and armored vehicles swept through Beijing, shooting dead — by most estimates — hundreds of people to end two months of protests, hunger strikes, and passionate speeches at Tiananmen Square.

This year’s crowd was estimated by the police at 54,000.

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