01/21/2005, 00.00
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Candlelight vigil and mass for Zhao Ziyang

At least 20,000 people are expected at a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. In China, the death of the former leader gives Catholics greater impetus to fight for democracy and human rights.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – At least 20,000 people are expected at a candlelight vigil to honour the former Chinese Communist Party Secretary Zhao Ziyang. Catholics who remember him as the party reformer shall hold a requiem mass for him this Sunday, January 23.

At 8 pm this evening the candlelight vigil will start at Hong Kong's Victoria Park. The one hour event is organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. It will honour the memory of Zhao Ziyang and commemorate June 4, the day in 1989 when the Tiananmen massacre took place.

Cheung Man-kwong, a member of the alliance's standing committee, said the group had changed the event's venue, which was originally planned for the park's southern pavilion, to the soccer fields. The move was made when the alliance realised more people would attend than originally estimated.

Alliance vice-chairman Lee Cheuk-yan said that the Leisure and Cultural Services Department has reserved three fields with another three ready should they be needed.

Chinese pro-democracy activists are expected to deliver eulogies for Zhang.

For its part, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese announced that it will hold a requiem mass on January 23 in memory of the late leader as well honour the thousands of people who died in Tiananmen Square. It will also pray for freedom and human rights in China.

Zhao Ziyang was the only political leader to have proposed a number of political reforms that would lead China away from its one-party system.

His opposition to repression in of the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989 led to his removal from office and to his house arrest.

His death has rekindled in people a desire for freedom that had hitherto been held in check by the party.

Zhao's death is an invitation to all to think about the events of recent years; it also reopens wounds inflicted by the bloody repression.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Chinese priest, who was subjected to a people's trial and re-education for organising a prayer for the victims of the 1989 repression, said he was organising a similar prayer "to remember the victims of the massacre" and call upon God "to enlighten Communist leaders and soldiers".

A Catholic man who works in the high tech industry said he thought he "had lost all hope from the days of protest" but now felt "a new and sudden strength".

He asked himself where did his courage and sense of responsibility go which once gave him the strength to fight for democracy and liberty.

He finally said that Zhao's death is renewing people's will to change a society that appears confused and disoriented.

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See also
Doubts linger over Zhao's funeral
Government to allow funeral for Zhao Ziyang
15,000 attend vigil for Zhao Ziyang
Government sets Zhao's funeral for Saturday
Chinese dissidents call on UN to intervene over human rights


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