More than a thousand Hong Kong protesters marched silently on Saturday night to mourn Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo.
The marchers, many of whom held candles, walked from Chater Garden in Central to the China Liaison Office in Sai Wan, Beijing’s official organ in Hong Kong, where the organiser placed books of condolences for the public to sign.
The vigil was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which previously held a sit-in calling for Liu to be allowed to go overseas for treatment.
Participants stream out of Chater Gardens at a candlelight vigil for Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in Hong Kong pic.twitter.com/Dpa0gydTSL
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) July 15, 2017
Liu passed away on Thursday at 61 after battling terminal liver cancer. He was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment for “subversion” after co-writing a manifesto calling for democratic reforms. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.
The Alliance’s chairman Albert Ho, a former pro-democracy lawmaker, said the world was sad for Liu’s death.
“We will continue Liu Xiaobo’s fight. We will remember his contributions and those of all who fought for democracy. We hope Liu will rest in peace,” Ho said. “A democratic China will eventually be achieved.”
He pledged on behalf of the Alliance pledge to free Liu’s wife, the poet Liu Xia.
“Mr Liu has left, he no longer needs to bear the pain of this world. But his wife Liu Xia is still under surveillance – she does not have the freedom and human rights that she deserves. I believe if Mr Liu hears of this in heaven, he will still feel the utmost sadness. We promise Mr Liu that we will fight for Liu Xia’s freedom.”
The Nobel laureate was cremated three days after his death and his ashes were scattered at sea on Saturday in Shenyang city of Liaoning Province. The Chinese government claimed the ceremony was conducted “in accordance with local traditions.”
However, China watcher and veteran journalist Bruce Lui Ping-kuen said it was rare to cremate a Chinese activist in just three days. He also said it was also not a Liaoning tradition to scatter ashes into the sea.
“For activists related to June 4th such as Li Wangyang… they were cremated in four, five days. In Liaoning, people are usually cremated after seven days,” Lui said. “The Chinese authorities wanted to complete the cremation as soon as possible, on as small a scale as possible.”
During the march, protesters from the pro-democracy party League of Social Democrats had a confrontation with the police when officers tried to stop veteran activist Koo Sze-yiu from joining the march.
Koo was holding a Chinese national flag turned upside down, on which he had written “Chinese fascists murdered Liu Xiaobo.” It is a criminal offence to defile the flag – a crime which Koo had been convicted of before – but he was not arrested. The protesters eventually pushed through and joined the march.
Participants took turns paying their respects to Liu Xiaobo by bowing three times in front of banners at the China Liaison Office.
The police ordered small groups of marchers to take turns gathering outside the office, and queues were still present at midnight amid occasional heavy rain.
Liu’s wife Liu Xia and brother Liu Xiaoguang appeared in official photos of the funeral released by authorities on Saturday.
Xiaoguang later appeared in an official press conference arranged by the Shenyang government, during which he said that the funeral was arranged in accordance with the family’s wishes. He thanked the Communist Party and the government three times before leaving the press conference, but did not answer any questions.
The Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights & Democracy cited an unnamed family member of Liu Xia as saying that she did not agree to the scattering of ashes. A family member of Liu Xiaoguang also told the center that Xiaoguang was speaking against his own wishes at the press conference.