In a surprise move, Junius Ho became the only pro-Beijing lawmaker to vote in favour of a motion to “never forget” the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre at the Legislative Council on Thursday afternoon.
The non-binding motion reads: “This Council urges that: the June 4 incident be not forgotten and the 1989 pro-democracy movement be vindicated.”
Speaking to reporters after the vote, Ho praised the intentions of the Chinese students who demonstrated in spring 1989, before the People’s Liberation Army crackdown in Beijing that left hundreds, perhaps thousands, dead.
Praise for the students
“The students basically supported a clean government, they were patriotic,” he said. “I must praise the students highly for their passion… The starting point of the students was correct.”
Ho said that the students gave people a lot of inspiration and energy, but added that it was not the time to hold anyone responsible for the massacre.
“In Hong Kong, we are trying to argue who massacred the city, who is the ‘butcher’. We’ve been discussing this for over 20 years. Our generation won’t – but maybe the next generation will – solve it.”
“We need to keep going, never forget our patriotic intentions, and build China… We shouldn’t keep saying ‘the Communist Party is like this’ or ‘not like this’. Who doesn’t have any faults?”
Ho said he was not deliberately putting on an act. He added that he did not prepare any speeches about June 4 because it was only his first year in the legislature: “There’s a lot that I want to say.”
Asked if he was worried that Beijing would be angered and would hold him accountable for such comments, Ho told reporters: “I spoke from my conscience, I’m not worried about being held accountable by anyone.”
He also did not respond to questions from reporters as to whether he supported “vindicating” June 4 – rather than simply to remember the massacre.
Citizen News reported that fellow pro-Beijing lawmaker Wong Kwok-kin initially thought Ho voted in favour of the June 4 motion by mistake. Pro-democracy lawmakers such as Claudia Mo also expressed their surprise at Ho’s stance on Facebook.
Later on Thursday, Ho wrote a Facebook post titled “Never forget June 4,” repeating the views he expressed to reporters.
“As to whether to vindicate the ‘1989 democracy movement,’ this is something that’s beyond our ability. Many things need to pass the test of time. Let history decide!”
The post attracted criticism from pro-Beijing internet users. Some claimed that the Tiananmen massacre was an armed uprising by students, and called the incident a “riot” alongside Hong Kong’s 2014 Occupy protests and 2016 Mong Kok clashes.
Other pro-Beijing figures in Hong Kong generally refrain from commenting on the massacre. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying condemned the Communist Party in 1989, but no longer speaks about the massacre publicly.
The June 4 motion is raised every year by pro-democracy legislators, but has always been rejected due to opposition from the larger pro-Beijing camp in the legislature’s functional constituencies.
In the geographical constituencies this year, the motion received 16 votes in favour, nine votes against and one abstention. In the functional constituencies, it received nine votes in favour, 14 votes against and five abstentions.
Legislature president Andrew Leung initially refused to handle the motion, saying that Democratic Party lawmaker Helena Wong had walked off to retrieve a prop from her assistant as the motion was about to be raised.
See also: Lawmaker’s quick reaction saves Tiananmen massacre debate from being blocked at legislature
Wong’s fellow party member Lam Cheuk-ting, however, stood up and demanded a quorum call before Leung managed to finish his sentence dismissing the motion. The president eventually allowed the debate.