The student unions of eight Hong Kong universities will not attend the annual June 4 vigil this year to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. They said it was “not Hongkongers’ responsibility to seek justice for the victims.”

Five schools that held a forum on the eve of June 4 last year have no plans to do the same again this year, according to Citizen News.

june 4 tiananmen vigil 2016
A June 4 vigil. File Photo: Todd Darling.

The Hong Kong Alliance organises a vigil in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay on June 4 every year to mark China’s crackdown on student pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989.

But since 2015, university student unions have stopped participating in the annual event, which typically draws tens of thousands of attendees.

The boycott by Hong Kong youth highlights a widening rift in the pro-democracy camp between those who wish to continue paying tribute to the victims of the mass killings, and those who consider the event to be increasingly irrelevant to locals.

‘Prioritise other issues’

The University of Hong Kong Students’ Union President Davin Wong said they will not hold any alternative vigil or forum like the union did over the last three years, as they wanted to avoid repetition, Citizen News reported on Friday.

Chan Wai-yin of the Chinese University’s student union said the Hong Kong Alliance’s annual vigil has become just a formality.

“There are many major events we should commemorate in Hong Kong, such as the SARS epidemic and the Occupy protests,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we consider June 4 vigils to be completely meaningless, but it’s just that we want to prioritise other issues.”

SARS commemoration
HKU Students’ Union attended a commemoration event of SARS last year. File Photo: HKFP/Kris Cheng.

He said he has no duty to seek justice for the victims of the 1989 crackdown – a responsibility that he said should be shouldered by “the people of that country.” He said that if even Chinese people do not fight for justice, there is nothing others can do to help them.

His sentiment is echoed by student leaders from the Polytechnic University, Shue Yan Unviersity and other schools.

A representative of the City University’s student union said: “We no longer identify with China. The responsibility of seeking justice for Tiananmen victims should not be passed on to us – it should be borne by Chinese people themselves.”

She added that Hong Kong’s political climate has undergone drastic changes with the rise of localist and pro-independence sentiments following the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy protests.

The student unions of Open University and Lingnan University have not responded to media enquiries.

Meanwhile, pro-democracy activist Michael Mo is planning to hold an alternative candlelight vigil conducted in English this year. He told HKFP earlier that he wanted the event to be more inclusive by making it “free from patriotic ideals.”

Ellie Ng has written for Foreign Policy, the Daily Telegraph, Global Voices Online and others.