Arrests in Tiananmen Square on 15th anniversary of bloody clampdown

Chinese police on Tiananmen Square arrested at least 16 people Friday, on the 15th anniversary of the bloody clampdown

Chinese police in Tiananmen Square arrested at least 16 people believed to have been commemorating the 15th anniversary of the bloody clampdown on the Chinese pro-democracy movement.

In Hong Kong, tens of thousands of people attended a candlelight vigil for those killed in the 1989 massacre.

Some 16 men and women were picked up and dragged to police vans in the Beijing-centre square, according to reports.

It wasn't possible to establish whether the detentions were related to the anniversary of the bloody clash that may have cost up to 2,000 protesters' lives.

But in the run-up to Friday, security forces had been trying to block public commemorations of the bloodshed by detaining activists and relatives of people killed in 1989 or ordering them out of Beijing

China still won't confirm any details of the violent crackdown in 1989 or admit it did anything wrong in killing hundreds of what it termed "counter-revolutionaries."

Security was relatively light compared with on other politically sensitive dates. The square was open as usual with hundreds of tourists strolling about, and only two buses of dozing paramilitary policemen on the scene.

But an Associated Press photographer was briefly detained after taking pictures of the arrests, and Chinese tourists who took photographs were forced by police to delete them from digital cameras.

Thousands demonstrate in Hong Kong

In contrast, tens of thousands of people demonstrated Friday night in Hong Kong, which China regained from Britain in 1997.

An estimated 24,000 people assembled in a downtown park as they attended a candlelight vigil.

The crowd bowed three times in a traditional Chinese funeral gesture, then chanted slogans including "demand accountability for the massacre," the Associated Press reported.

In 1989 about one million people are believed to have taken to the street in Hong Kong as the clampdown unfolded in Beijing.

Beijing recently ruled out full democracy in the territory it designates a "special administrative zone."

It has fed into concerns that Hong Kong will not gain the freedoms it was promised by Beijing at the time.

Chinese economic reforms

"China has changed a lot economically, but not at all politically," a woman participating in a commemorative march told the CBC.

Her remarks echoed those of exiled Chinese pro-democracy activists at demonstrations around the world, including in Taiwan and in Washington. Many prominent survivors of Tiananmen have ended up living in the United States.

Months of democratic stirrings culminated in the 1989 occupation by tens of thousands of people of the square in the heart of Beijing.

The demonstrators demanded a more open political system and an end to government corruption.

Images of the People's Army violently clearing the square shocked the world, isolated China internationally, and set off an upheaval in domestic politics.

The reformist Communist party general secretary Zhao Ziyang was deposed and remains under house arrest today.

But China's then supreme leader Deng Xiaoping continued with economic reforms as part of his "one country, two systems" program.

China has since enjoyed a decade of unprecedented economic growth that has turned the country into one of the principal engines of world economic growth.