It is the only place under Chinese control where people can gather to remember the bloodshed of Tiananmen Square. And as TV and newspapers reported that huge numbers of students in mainland China have never heard of the massacre, Hong Kong showed that it remembered.
Tens of thousands gathered in the central Victoria Park, holding glittering candles aloft in memory of those who died in the 1989 crackdown by the People's Liberation Army, at a time when Hong Kong was still under British rule. Organisers said 180,000 were in attendance, compared to 150,000 last year, the South China Morning Post reported.
Most of the record crowd were young people, some not born at the time of the killings of the student protesters. Thousands of hands sprung up when the announcer on the vigil's stage asked who was here for the first time.
"Let's show our sea of lights to [Chinese President] Xi Jinping! Fight until the end!" Lee Cheuk-yan, the chairman of the organising committee, shouted to the crowd.
SUBSCRIBE AND FOLLOW
Get top stories and blog posts emailed to me each day. Newsletters may offer personalized content or advertisements. Learn more
Politicians and church leaders were in attendance, including the influential retired archbishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Zen, and Democratic Party founder Martin Lee. There have been set-backs en route to this gathering, with the vigil's website disabled by what organisers called "malicious hacking".
Local news reports said a handful of pro-China demonstrators had turned up to oppose the vigil, with one group 'The Voice of Loving Hong Kong' disseminating videos online prior to the event, urging people to give up the memorials that were holding back China's progress.
One demonstrator Chiu Keng Wong, who said he was from Hong Kong, held a sign saying: 'Without a prompt crackdown, China would not be what it is today'. He told the New York Times: “This had to be done to defend reform and opening up. Older people who have spent time in China understand my view.”