Some student groups won’t join annual vigil on June 4
HONG KONG— Isabella Steger reports: Every year for a quarter-century, large Hong Kong crowds have commemorated the 1989 crackdown on student protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. This June 4, some young Hong Kongers say they won’t join in.
Much like in Beijing in 1989, student groups were at the forefront of the monthslong pro-democracy protests that paralyzed much of Hong Kong last year and which challenged Beijing on how Hong Kong should elect its leader.
“I feel very sad. It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
— Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown
Unlike in Beijing, the Hong Kong protests ended peacefully, though with no visible concession from the Chinese government. What the rallies also did was lay bare a growing chasm between old and young over Hong Kong’s identity and relationship with Beijing. That rift is now playing out over the annual Tiananmen vigil, with some student groups saying Hong Kongers should focus on democratic rights in the territory rather than on the mainland.
“Every year it’s the same, we sing the same songs and watch the same videos. For some people, going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in. Should we continue looking back on a historical event, or focus on the more urgent situation here now?”
— Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong’s student union will organize its own June 4 event “to reflect on the future of democracy in Hong Kong.” Separately, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, the main group leading last year’s protests, said that for the first time it won’t participate in the vigil as an organization.
“I feel very sad,” said Claudia Mo, an opposition lawmaker and former journalist who was in Beijing during the 1989 crackdown. “It’s a watershed year in my life” she said. “To call the ocean of candlelight ceremonial or perfunctory, it’s just not fair.”
“Going to the vigil is a bit like clocking in.”
—Cameron Chan, University of Hong Kong student
But to Cameron Chan, 20, a social-sciences student at the University of Hong Kong, it is precisely that the annual vigil has become such a fixture that is the problem.
The student group’s decision is baffling to many democracy supporters in the city, who see the annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to remember the Tiananmen victims as an important civic duty—not least because it’s the only mass commemoration of the event in the Greater China universe.
“I don’t see how Hong Kong can fully divorce itself from democracy movements on the mainland.”
—Joshua Wong, student leader
“I cannot understand [the students’] thinking,” said Jack Choi, a 36-year-old who works in finance and has been going to the vigil on and off since 2000. “It’s two separate issues. Our mother is China, if the mother is not free, how can the child be?” Read the rest of this entry »