China media: Tiananmen vigil

Hong Kong residents take part in a candlelight vigil to mark the 24th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown
Image caption Hong Kong residents take part in a candlelight vigil to mark anniversary

Media in Hong Kong pay tribute to their city's residents for braving the rain last night to demand redress for the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

A rift over identification with mainland China split up Hong Kong's annual 4 June vigil for the victims of the 1989 mainland military crackdown for the first time in 24 years. Besides the main vigil in Victoria Park, students and "nativism" activists held smaller vigils elsewhere in the city.

But despite recent debate on whether the city's autonomy and values are under threat from integration with the mainland, Apple Daily, Oriental Daily News, Ming Pao and many other local newspapers say hundreds of thousands of people still lit candles in Victoria Park to demand a redress of the crackdown.

Columnist Lee Yee in Apple Daily says despite differences among Hong Kong residents over the concept of patriotism and Chinese nationality, people with conflicting political beliefs still rallied together to mourn the victims under a united cause to "fight for democracy and oppose tyranny".

"Beijing has asked Japan to face up to and acknowledge its history of aggression and to follow Germany in bravely casting off its burden of World War II crimes. Why doesn't the Chinese Communist Party draw lessons from this in dealing with this historical issue of 4 June?" Hong Kong Economic Journal asks.

Oriental Daily News notes that many people from the mainland also took part in last night's vigil.

South China Morning Post says some of the mainlanders held up placards at the vigil saying, "Thank you Hong Kong".

Chen Xitong, who was Beijing mayor at the time and widely believed to be one of the key figures behind the military crackdown, was cremated on Monday after dying of cancer while on medical parole on a corruption conviction on Sunday, Apple Daily reports.

In an interview with South China Morning Post, Wang Fandi, whose 19-year-old son Wang Nan was killed in the Tiananmen Square crackdown, called Mr Chen's death retribution for the "sins" he committed 24 years ago. But Mr Wang said his death would do nothing to change the official line on the bloody tragedy.

Oriental Daily News says plainclothes police patrolled and carried out searches of people in Tiananmen Square and many areas of Beijing, and only allowed relatives of the victims of the crackdown to enter cemeteries.

Petitioners who had come from around the country to seek central government help for their grievances also sang and lit candles to commemorate the 4 June victims in Beijing, the newspaper adds.

Apple Daily also notes that the "Great Firewall of China", a nickname for China's internet censorship system, was busy yesterday deleting posts with sensitive terms related to 4 June. Some internet users complained that Sina Weibo, a microblog service, even removed candle emoticons.

'Grim' environment report

On World Environment Day, China's environment ministry has released an annual report showing that the country's environment was "still grim" in 2012, says People's Daily.

The newspaper warns that "a large number of social conflicts at the grassroots level" arising from land disputes and a lack of channels to voice grievances could affect social stability if they are not resolved immediately by officials.

On Monday, a survey by Legal Daily magazine showed an alarming level of groundwater contamination in the provinces of Shandong, Henan and Hebei with many "cancer villages" arising from pollutants from factories.

One desperate villager in a "cancer village" in Zouping, Shandong, warned the magazine that if he had dynamite, he would blow up one of the chemical plants nearby emitting toxic gas.

"'I want to blow up a chemical plant' may just be a farmer expressing anger, but it is also a warning signal. A clean-up of groundwater contamination and other environmental problems causing extreme public discontent must be accelerated," The Beijing News stresses.

Soul-searching also continues in many mainland newspapers over the deaths over 120 workers in a fire at a poultry slaughterhouse in Jilin on Monday. The factory's exits were almost all locked, making it difficult for more than 300 workers to escape the blaze.

Commentaries in The Beijing News, Changjiang Daily and Oriental Morning Post blame lax safety supervision by authorities for three devastating fires occurring in the slaughterhouse, as well as a granary and a petrochemical tanker in the three northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang, Liaoning and Jilin in just four days.

A People's Daily commentary says the recent industrial safety disasters have "sounded the alarm again" for the urgency of building a "peaceful China" with better safety standards for the workplace, food and transport.

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