18 June 2018
Students from all Hong Kong universities and other tertiary educational institutions stayed away from the June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park this year. Photo: HKEJ
Students from all Hong Kong universities and other tertiary educational institutions stayed away from the June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park this year. Photo: HKEJ

Why our youngsters are looking beyond the June 4 vigil

Everything seemed hunky-dory at the candlelight vigil at Victoria Park last Saturday. More than 100,000 people turned up for the June 4 commemoration, and the participants sang the same songs and raised the same slogans as they have done over the past 27 years.

That makes some people believe that the pan-democrats and members of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements (the “Alliance”) can continue to live off the June 4 legacy and milk it for donation, popularity and leadership for the rest of their lives.

But will that really be the case?

People tend to believe in what they want to believe, and that is also the case with the old-school pan-democrats and leaders of the Alliance.

But the fact is that the entire June 4 commemoration effort has completely lost touch with the popular sentiment prevailing among our younger generation these days.

The main theme the Alliance has been preaching for the past 27 years, which is to push for vindication on the 1989 protests in China and democratization of the mainland, is quickly losing its resonance among Hong Kong people in the post-Occupy era.

Given that students from all of our 11 universities and other tertiary educational institutions have boycotted the candlelight vigil this year, we can say that the future of the June 4 commemoration is hanging by a thread.

How can its future be promising if our young people no longer buy into its main theme and what it stands for?

The truth is, in the eyes of most of our young people these days, the June 4, 1989 incident in Beijing is just another atrocity against humanity committed by a brutal regime in the world.

It might be worth commemorating from a humanitarian point of view, but our youth can no longer relate to nor feel emotionally attached to the incident, unlike the previous generation, because they just don’t regard themselves as Chinese anymore.

June 4 is irrelevant to them as it is seen as just a tragic historical event that took place on foreign soil before they were born.

Many of the youth, including student leaders in our universities, were put off by the idea of seeking vindication on the June 4 protests and pushing for democratization in the mainland, as pitched by the Alliance.

They just can’t get their heads round as to why it is their responsibility to help fight for democracy in China. As far as they are concerned, Hong Kong is Hong Kong and China is China, therefore we should mind our own business and the mainland Chinese should mind theirs.

Thanks to the policy of forced assimilation imposed upon Hong Kong by Beijing and the latter’s relentless violation of our city’s autonomy in recent years, more and more young people have been drawn to the pro-independence cause, which, they sincerely believe, is not only a viable political option, but can also be the best solution to our woes.

As Beijing has gone back on its word and won’t allow us democracy, why don’t we just break up? This is how many youth feel. 

The notion that Hong Kong won’t have true democracy unless the mainland has it, and the view that the pro-democracy movements in Hong Kong and the mainland are dependent upon each other, are cliches that the pan-democrats and the Alliance have been sticking to for the past 27 years.

But the arguments no longer resonate with young people in this city. The vigil organizers may have also noticed this harsh fact, but they simply have no choice but to hang on to their moribund theme and the event because their mojo, their income and their status are all dependent on it.

The new and valorous generation arising from the Occupy Movement doesn’t see the independence of Hong Kong as a taboo subject at all, unlike the old pan-democratic wimps who don’t even have the guts to touch upon the issue.

Deeply frustrated with the cowardice, hypocrisy and indecision of the pan-democrats in face of Beijing’s pressure, the young people are determined to take their future back into their own hands and stop relying on others to fight for the rights to which they are entitled.

Seeking independence for our city is definitely one of their clearly defined and actionable goals, if not the only goal.

So how possibly can the people of Hong Kong achieve full independence given the presence of a 6000-strong and armed-to-the-teeth PLA garrison in our city?

I’ll just say that anything can be possible if people wage a determined and long fight. 

Let me give you an example.

In 1946 when the Jewish people were fighting for an independent Israel, there were 200,000 British soldiers stationed in Palestine. But against all the odds, the Jewish people achieved their goal.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on June 7.

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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HKEJ columnist

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