26 October 2016
Thousands hold a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Photo: HKEJ
Thousands hold a candlelight vigil at Victoria Park to commemorate the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. Photo: HKEJ

Why are our students condemning the remembrance of June 4?

Should Hong Kong people continue to commemorate the June 4 Tiananmen Square massacre?

The annual event at Victoria Park, in which hundreds of thousands of people hold a candlelight vigil to remember the victims of the heinous crackdown on pro-democracy university students in Beijing 27 years ago, has become the subject of an intense debate in the territory.

Just a few days ago, Ng Kwai-lung, head of Shue Yan University’s student union editorial board, condemned the vigil’s organizers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which he described as having become “pimps in a brothel after they themselves were raped”.

In an article posted on social media, Ng said the alliance’s task was to “lure young girls to be tainted, before submitting them to gangs and bandits”.

Such ferocious language comes with the rise of localism in the city.

From the viewpoint of some localists, the bloody crackdown by the People’s Liberation Army on university students in 1989 was a Chinese affair, and therefore had nothing to do with the Hong Kong people’s struggle to free themselves from Chinese rule.

But the question is, why should Hong Kong people be prevented from commemorating the event?

If there are people who think that the June 4 event is a Chinese affair and should not be the concern of Hong Kong, then they are absolutely free not to remember the incident.

That should not present any conflict with those who want to remember the infamous event, and to condemn the loss of many human lives and the brutal repression of dissent by the Chinese Communist Party.

So why should these university students want to stop others from continuing the annual remembrance of the event?

For Hong Kong people who witnessed the June 4 massacre on their television screens, the article by the university student leader must have come as a big shock as they never expected the alliance to be described as such.

If anything, the article has given rise to suspicions that those who are opposing the holding of the annual vigil are themselves the ones being manipulated by unseen forces.

Why should the article say that those who participate in the yearly event have been “kidnapped” by the alliance when they have been doing it every June 4?

In fact, the alliance has been the sole organizer of the commemorative event for the past 27 years until last year, when the University of Hong Kong student unions organized their own annual event to remember the 1989 massacre.

Most of those who join the annual vigil at Victoria Park do not necessarily support the agenda of the alliance, whatever it is, except to commemorate the June 4 incident.

They are capable of making their own decisions, and they join the annual vigil out of their own volition.

However, those who were born after 1989 obviously didn’t have an eyewitness experience of the June 4 crackdown, they didn’t see the massive march of about a million people on the streets of Hong Kong in support of the protesting students in Beijing, they didn’t feel the utter sadness and anger that Hong Kong people felt as the Chinese army killed the protesting students in Beijing.

Many of today’s students simply want to separate Hong Kong from China; they don’t want to know what China did in the past or what it will do in the future.

For them, what is important is Hong Kong’s future and nothing else’s. They want to cut all ties with China.

That’s why these students decided not to participate in any activities organized by the alliance and to avoid echoing the alliance’s slogan of “building a democratic China”.

They want to show to the public that they are pro-Hong Kong, but not pro-China.

Their stance is bound to create more division among Hong Kong people, who are now being asked to make a choice between China and Hong Kong.

Ng Kwai-lung, the Shue Yan University student leader, admitted that in writing the article, he received advice from Wan Chin, a Lingnan University scholar who is well-known for his theory of Hong Kong as a city-state.

What is apparent is that unlike most pro-democracy Hongkongers who take a negative view of Beijing authorities, the university student leaders who advocate localism seem to be avoiding to make direct criticism of Beijing.

In fact, Chin has been labeled as a respected professional by the Communist Party, and always took a critical stance toward the alliance and the pro-democracy camp.

Given that Chin is planning to run in the Legislative Council elections in September, he and his allies will have to fight it out with pan-democrats in five geographical constituencies.

It cannot be ruled out that his criticism of the June 4 candlelight vigil is part of his political campaign to cross swords with the pan-democrats who have close links with the alliance.

It may be that Chin’s camp is using local university student leaders as part of its election campaign and propaganda war against the pan-democrats.

While the students want to differentiate themselves from the alliance’s pro-China mindset, the fact remains that there is no conflict between Hong Kong localism and the annual commemoration of the June 4 massacre.

Students should not ignore the fact that the Hong Kong people’s awakening to the faults of the Communist Party could be traced to the Tiananmen Square massacre.

It’s even fair to say that the Hong Kong pan-democratic movement sprang from the June 4 event.

The commemoration of the June 4 event is a condemnation of the Communist Party’s wrongdoings in China and Hong Kong.

It is understandable that Hong Kong students, who were at the forefront of the Occupy Movement in 2014, are angry at China because their legitimate demand for genuine universal suffrage was met with both indifference and violence.

But the students should not jump to the conclusion that Hong Kong people have no responsibility in helping build a democratic China.

It seems that the students are playing a game to protect some people from responsibility in the Tiananmen Square massacre by riding on the Hong Kong independence debate.

Hong Kong people should remain vigilant.

– Contact us at [email protected]


EJ Insight writer

EJI Weekly Newsletter