Tiananmen Anniversary Commemorated in Hong Kong

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HONG KONG - They began to arrive in Hong Kong's Victoria Park before dusk, tens of thousands of people determined that 25 years on, the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown will not be forgotten.

Most striking was the number of young people, not even born in 1989, but still determined the world should not forget the night the Chinese government unleashed the army on its own people.

"As young Chinese we have a duty to come here, to be part of this," said one young Hong Kong student.

Tiananmen Square Commemoration in Hong Kong on June 4.Ian Williams / NBC News

"Democracy! justice!" said another, though he was a veteran of these annual vigils.

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By eight o'clock local time, the park was packed and people overflowed into the streets nearby, fanning themselves against the intense humidity.

Banners lined the park, speeches relayed on screens for those in the distant corners.

Models of the Goddess of Democracy, based on the Statue of Liberty and which became a symbol of the democracy movement, were spotlit along a central path.

Shortly after eight o'clock the lights went out and thousands of candles were held aloft. There was a moment of silence, then solemn music interspersed with images and clips of speeches from student leaders in 1989.

It was a powerful moment.

Then they stood, and a voice recited the names of those known to have died.

A heavy drumbeat followed, growing in intensity.

In the crowd, nobody stirred. Candles flickered as far as the eye could see.

Nobody knows the exact number who died, since there has been no real accounting. It could be hundreds, possibly thousands.

And the message from Hong Kong tonight is that while the Chinese government may want to tease from history the events June 4, 1989, this outpost of China, which still enjoys some autonomy, is determined to keep the memory alive.