That old question, what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object, received a new answer on June 4 when tens of thousands of people in Hong Kong poured into Victoria Park for the 26th year in a row to commemorate those who died in Beijing in 1989 when tanks rumbled into the capital and converged on Tiananmen Square.

Democracy is the ostensibly irresistible force. A quarter of a century ago, communist dictatorships crumbled all over Europe in the face of citizen protests and were succeeded by governments more accountable to their people.

In East Asia, too, the last few decades saw authoritarian governments give way to liberal democracies in South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan.