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September 24, 2017

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Protesters marching in HK ahead of Tiananmen protest

HONG KONG -- Pro-democracy protesters marched in Hong Kong on Sunday to call for greater political freedoms in China and an end to one-party rule, ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Organisers said 3,000 people took to the streets in sweltering heat for the annual protest, calling on Beijing to release imprisoned political dissidents and formally acknowledge the bloody crackdown of 1989.

Hong Kong police put the number of protesters lower at 1,900.

It comes ahead of a mass candle-lit vigil planned for Wednesday to mark the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests in which hundreds of people, by some estimates more than 1,000, died.

Marchers shouted slogans such as "Democracy Now," "End One-Party Rule" and "Release Gao Yu," referring to a Chinese journalist recently detained for allegedly leaking state secrets.

China still forbids public discussion of the events of June 3-4 1989 when the military brutally suppressed pro-democracy protesters, mainly students, in central Beijing.

Hong Kong is the only city in China to mark the anniversary openly.

"As for many years, it is a continuous struggle hoping to find justice and have a democratic China. This is the case even after 25 years," Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, a protest organizer, told AFP.

"It is the responsibility of Hong Kong people to show support because we still have protection for our human rights," Tsoi, the vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Alliance In Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said.

Including Gao, police have criminally detained some 20 prominent liberal academics, lawyers and activists in recent weeks, according to the U.S.-based group Human Rights in China.

They include Pu Zhiqiang, one of China's most celebrated human rights lawyers.

Amnesty International last week criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping for choosing "repression over reform," as clampdowns precede the Tiananmen anniversary.

Pro-democracy advocates in the city have constantly sought ways to remind locals and mainland Chinese visitors of what happened.

Lee Cheuk-yan, a lawmaker who is the chairman of the Alliance, told protesters before the march: "We are protesting because suppression continues today and is getting more severe."

"Led by the Xi Jinping administration, freedom and human rights in China today is the worst for the past 25 years," he said.

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