Rift in Hong Kong points to generation gap

HONG KONG - An alternative commemoration held at a Hong Kong university on June 4, the 26th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen incident, has sent shock waves through the city's pro-democracy movement.

Small, orderly and dignified, it was nonetheless the first breakaway from the annual candlelight vigil held at the city's Victoria Park -- an event that attracts thousands of mourners and is the most potent symbol of the abiding sorrow and anger that reverberates among the Chinese community worldwide.

The rift did not spoil the main event as some had feared. Organizers claimed that 135,000 attended, while the police put the figure at 46,600. The familiar image of a sea of candles filling up the park still graced newspapers the following day.

Yet, the student organizers at the University of Hong Kong, alma mater of celebrated revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, are part of an increasingly radical movement among young people that has gained momentum after last year's 79-day Occupy Central protests.

They advocate an insular society built upon the former British colony's unique culture and history that pays no heed to the wishes of the special administrative region's masters in Beijing. Their views could sway Hong Kong's political development at a critical juncture.

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