28 October 2016
Hong Kong has a special responsibility to keep the memory of June 4, 1989 alive because it is the only place on Chinese soil where it is possible to openly commemorate the massacre. Photo: Reuters
Hong Kong has a special responsibility to keep the memory of June 4, 1989 alive because it is the only place on Chinese soil where it is possible to openly commemorate the massacre. Photo: Reuters

Student leaders on the wrong side of history

Political grandstanding is never an edifying sight; lamentably this ugly vision is on display today and it comes from a number of student unions and others who believe that the dead bodies of those killed in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is a good place to start for fostering divisions among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp.

They are planning to boycott the June 4 rally in Victoria Park and some of the more intemperate boycotters seem to believe that turning their anger on the rally’s organizers puts them on a higher moral plane.

This is a dangerous and objectionable form of stupidity as the whole point of the rally is to underline the message that there is one place in China where the massacre will not be forgotten and, equally importantly, this is where the united forces of the democracy movement pledge themselves to continue the struggle.

Wang Dan, one of the organizers of the 1989 student protests, has urged the university students to “spend more time learning history”. He is 100 percent right to do so.

If they were to follow his advice they would know that a major reason for the location of the original 1989 protest in Beijing was to physically occupy the ground that gave birth to the 1919 May Fourth Movement, widely regarded as the birth of modern protest in China.

They saw themselves as part of the continuum of this movement.

History weighs heavily on China’s democracy movement, as it does on all movements striving to bring about major political and social change.

One of the idiots seeking to justify the boycott of this year’s events said that it was time to move on because the 1989 protests had “achieved nothing”.

His ignorance is encapsulated in these words because the struggle for a better society is rarely achieved in the wake of a single event or indeed over a short period of time.

Does he, for example, think that the demolition of the Berlin Wall was in itself the single event that ended Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, leading to the collapse of the Soviet Union?

If so this displays a woeful lack of knowledge of the previous revolts in, among other places, Poland, Hungry and Czechoslovakia, that, in their time, ended in “failure” but built up the forces eventually leading to the end of the Communist dictatorship.

They were, in other words, part of a process, much in the same way that the events of 1989 are part of a process whose end point has yet to be realized.

However, there are other very important considerations that specifically relate to the situation in Hong Kong.

The boycotters self-righteously maintain that their focus is on local matters and see no reason to spend time looking over their shoulders at what happened on the mainland.

Here again blatant ignorance is on shabby display.

What they don’t understand but is clearly understood by the hundreds of thousands of people who keep the memory of 1989 alive is that Hong Kong has a special responsibility in this regard because (arguably aside from Macau), this is the only place on Chinese soil where it is possible to openly commemorate the massacre.

The freedom to do so is pursued in the face of numerous attempts to undermine the one country, two systems principle.

The people of Hong Kong have resisted these attempts, not least when the government was forced to backtrack on plans for the dangerous anti-subversion law pushed by Regina Ip when she was in government.

On the mainland itself people commemorating the massacre are liable to be thrown in jail while the official verdict on these events remains unapologetic because the Communist Party fears that an admission of fault would undermine its wider credibility.

Hong Kong therefore has a duty to exercise the liberty that exists here.

Only the most dimwitted student leader will not be able to understand that this liberty is derived from Hong Kong’s rather peculiar history and is only sustained by the determination of the people in the face of a government that would dearly love these freedoms to be eradicated.

There is nothing wrong with different people marking June 4 in different ways but those who seek to undermine the solidarity of Hong Kong people should be under no illusion that the only beneficiaries of their actions are the enemies of a free Hong Kong, and indeed of a free China.

The Liaison Office in Western will be celebrating the activities of these boycotters because they are attempting to do something that the full might of the Chinese state has so far been unable to do.

So, “congratulations” to these idiots who have no knowledge of history yet are guaranteed to land up on its wrong side.

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Hong Kong-based journalist, broadcaster and book author

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