Wang Dan takes issue with HK student groups over June 4

June 03, 2016 14:57
The June 4 vigil has much broader significance for Hong Kong than mere remembrance of the victims of Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on democracy activists, says former Tiananmen student leader Wang Dan (inset). Photo: Reuters

Wang Dan, one of the prominent student leaders in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, said he is distressed at remarks made by some young Hong Kong people in relation to the June 4 remembrance.

The comments by student groups that they won't participate in an annual vigil to remember the victims of China's Tiananmen crackdown won't help the cause of Hong Kong's localist movement or the city's democratic development, Wang said.

In an email reply to the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Wang -- who now lives in Taiwan -- said the argument and logic behind the proposition that matters relating to China are of no concern to Hong Kong is absolutely flawed.

While the indifference is a cause for concern, Wang pinned the blame on Beijing, saying its actions have led to the younger generation in Hong Kong feeling "cut off" from China.

Wang noted that he respects and understands the desperation of Hong Kong students, but said he hopes the youth can prove themselves and come up with some pragmatic action plans that will help the city achieve democracy.

The comments came after some university student leaders openly criticized the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, a group that organizes a candlelight vigil every year at Victoria Park on June 4.

The student leaders accused the Alliance of using the event to promote patriotism to Hongkongers, among other things.

Questions were also raised as to the relevance of the commemoration as it pertains to incidents that took place in China and not in Hong Kong.

Wang said in his message to HKEJ that what he and other students did in Beijing in 1989 was a patriotic act.

It is important for Hong Kong youth to distinguish between "country", "party" and "people", he said.

He also pointed out that the June 4 event has long transcended beyond being just an act of remembering a past event.

The vigil has been a symbol of Hong Kong's fight for freedom, preservation of the city's autonomy and the locals' rights and benefits, Wang said.

Wang was high up on China's wanted list after the June 4, 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing.

He was jailed for sometime and later forced into exile to the United States. He is now living in Taiwan, teaching history at the National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu.

In China, authorities have been tightening security and surveillance measures ahead of the 27th anniversary of the June 4 crackdown.

Some activists have been taken away by police or kept in house detention in order to prevent them from speaking to the media.

Veteran journalist Gao Yu, 72, is reported to have been sent to Qingdao in Shandong province, while Bao Tong, 84, former director of the Office of Political Reform of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, has been taken away to Kunming in Yunnan province.

Ding Zilin, founder of the political pressure group Tiananmen Mothers, was forced to stay home under close surveillance.

This year an open letter signed by 131 members of the Tiananmen Mothers has called for truth and accountability from Beijing authorities over the 1989 incident, and also compensation for the families of the victims.

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Hong Kong Economic Journal