An “alternative” forum on the 1989 Tiananmen massacre was held by 11 student unions of tertiary institutions on Saturday. The Chinese University forum was held in a response to the annual candlelit vigil at Victoria Park, which organisers oppose.
The student unions said Hongkongers have been attending the Victoria Park vigil without hesitation, but – in recent years – after the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests, young people have seen very big changes in local identity.
They opposed the notion of “Hong Kong will only have democracy after China has democracy”, and voiced opposition to the belief that “building a democratic China” is the moral responsibility of Hong Kong people. Events to mark the June 4 crackdown from a local perspective have begun to emerge as student and localist groups urge deep and rational reflection on the massacre from the Hong Kong vantagepoint. The groups say they want to redefine the meaning of June 4 for a new generation, and for Hong Kong’s future.
Around 1,600 people attended the forum at the Sir Run Run Shaw Hall. The atmosphere was relaxed, in contrast to the solemn, commemorative atmosphere of Victoria Park.
Chow Shue-fung, president of the student union of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, said he was satisfied by what the event achieved.
“It was fruitful,” he said. “Today’s discussions prepared theoretical foundations for future political actions.”
He said the turnout showed that the public supported the event, “or at least some are willing to listen to our opinion.”
Whether similar events will be held next year would have to be decided by the next cabinet, who will be elected next year, he said.
The event began with a documentary on the events of the democratic movement of 1989, followed by a joint-university statement on the June 4 massacre. It said that Hong Kong people must learn the lessons from June 4 and realise the difficulties in front of them in order to to prepare for future resistance.
Another documentary was played criticising the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, which organises the main vigil. It said that the Alliance have been repeating ceremonies without achieving anything.
the Sir RunRun Shaw hall at CUHK can hold around 1500 pic.twitter.com/NvAymX3nhi
— Kris Cheng (@krislc) June 4, 2016
The first part of the forum was hosted by RTHK journalist So King-hang, with political commentators Lewis Lau, Chip Tsao, Cheng Lap and Chan Nga-ming. The discussion topic was “Reorganising the fragments of memory: The local perspective of June 4”.
Lau said that June 4 created a post-traumatic “syndrome” for Hong Kong – with activists worried that the People’s Liberation Army could be deployed to crush protests. He said it created a “self-limitation” whereby activists often halt action for fear the PLA may be used.
He added that young people born after the crackdown “are fortunate because they did not know the feeling” and they are not worried about potential Chinese army deployments.
Another speaker, Cheng Lap, said such thinking caused Hong Kong people to “make decision based on emotions” rather than thinking from a strategic point of view about China.
Passing of the flame
Columnist Chip Tsao, one of the older speakers, said that there should be a common ground between the Hong Kong Alliance and student – freedom.
— Hong Kong Free Press (@HongKongFP) June 4, 2016
“The passing on of the flame does not mean the same unimportant people doing the same thing on stage… it needs to change with time,” he said, receiving applause from the audience.
He added that young people are future voters, and so the Alliance and pan-democrats should try harder to gain their support.
He even suggested that the annual Victoria Park vigil should be organised by the Alliance in a year and then by the localists in another year, to allow people to decide which one suited them the best.
The focus of the second part of the forum was “Facing the dictatorship: The future of Hong Kong”.
The five speakers, many considered localists, agreed on the point that if Hong Kong were to gain independence, or have a shot at self-determination, it must gather enough power and influence before doing so. It must create cultural influence, trade ties and international relationships.
Chan Ho-tin of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party said that, if Hong Kong people’s minds did not change – even if Hong Kong achieved independence – the city would still be ruled by a majority group with links to China.
“We need to have [real] Hong Kong people in power in every sector,” he said.