A student leader at the Chinese University of Hong Kong has said that the annual June 4 candlelight vigil at Victoria Park has become “rigid”, in response to plans by university student unions to host separate events to commemorate the Tiananmen massacre in 1989.

After a split with the vigil organisers, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, over localist sentiment, 11 student unions have planned to host forums at universities, instead of attending the vigil.

On a RTHK radio programme on Thursday, the CUHK student union president questioned the format of the candlelight vigil.

June 4th Vigil
File photo: HKFP.

“It is absolutely fine to commemorate [June 4], we understand that many students and other people will commemorate,” Chow Shue-fung said. “Commemoration comes from the heart, but is it necessary to host a ceremony where many people come together to wave candles and sing… our view is that if it is possible to gather some hundred thousand people, shouldn’t we do something more meaningful with discussion or reflection on what we can do for Hong Kong’s future?”

Chow added that people, especially students, had been discussing with each other on such issues after the Victoria Park vigil finished each year, and he said such a format should be used.

June 4 Vigil
An observer at a previous June 4 vigil. Photo: HKFP.

“We cannot agree with the rigid format of the Victoria Park vigil, and the principle of the Alliance,” he said. “It connects Chinese identity, with building democracy in China and June 4, the three are part of a package to indoctrinate the participants… I don’t think the vindication of the 1989 movement should be linked to building democracy in China.”

“To go further, vindication of the 1989 movement and building democracy in China are not moral responsibilities of Hong Kong people.”

Chow Shue-fung
Chow Shue-fung. Photo: Facebook.


He said that supporting an issue did not mean it was a moral responsibility.

“Ninety percent of the world’s population support world peace… but does that mean everyone should be responsible for intervening in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Should everyone be responsible for helping with the release of political dissidents in Russia, should everyone be responsible for going to Ukraine to stop the invasion by Russia?”

He said that going to the vigil is a personal choice, and the student unions wished to use the opportunity of the timing – as there was still momentum – to discuss June 4 and how it influenced Hong Kong people.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.