Student organisations from six of Hong Kong’s universities have come together to organise a forum discussing the history and future implications of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Since 2015, university student unions have stopped participating in the annual June 4 vigil organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Victoria Park, citing differences in their attitude towards China. Instead, they held forums in 2016 and 2017.

HKU June 4
The HKU June 4 forum in 2016. Photo: HKFP.

The forums highlight a lingering rift in the pro-democracy camp between those who continue to push for democracy in China, and those who believe that Hong Kong’s local concerns should come first.

However, the practice lapsed last year and no forum was held. Multiple student leaders said at the time that the discussions had become too similar and repetitive.

See also: HKFP guide to Hong Kong events commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre

On Tuesday, six student unions – from the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, Polytechnic University, Baptist University, Education University and City University – along with the Federation of Students (FS) jointly announced that they would revive the forum.

The 1989 crackdown ended months of student-led demonstrations in China. It is estimated that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people died when the People’s Liberation Army was deployed to crack down on Beijing protesters.

The student unions’ event will be held at the University of Hong Kong on June 2, with the aim of “searching for past meanings and future inspirations.”

“It has been 30 years since the June-Fourth Incident, which still has a lot of influence on Hong Kong’s democratic movement and student movements throughout the past three decades,” the groups said in a statement.

“The young and old have different opinions, and the young are searching for their own ‘June Fourth significance.’”

Tiananmen Massacre vigil Victoria Park 2018
The annual Victoria Park vigil held by the Hong Kong Alliance. Photo:

The first session of the forum will discuss the June 4 massacre in relation to Hong Kong student activism, and feature former student leaders from different universities.

The second session will focus on the path forward for the city’s democracy, which will see Hong Kong Alliance Vice-chairperson Chow Hang-tung share a stage with Hong Kong independence activists Wayne Chan, Tony Chung and Baggio Leung.

Washing Pillar of Shame

Separately, representatives from the HKU Student Union also said they will wash the Pillar of Shame on June 4. The bright orange statue is a harrowing monument to the Tiananmen victims.

The Hong Kong Alliance already washed the monument earlier this month, but their event has not been attended by HKUSU representatives since 2016.

Pillar of Shame
The Pillar of Shame. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Today, in a society [where] absurdities and injustices come about incessantly, HKU students still choose to participate in different social movements, in pursuit of democracy and freedom,” the student union said in a statement.

“Through cleaning the Pillar of Shame and repainting Swire Bridge, it is hoped that the June Fourth Incident can be commemorated and HKU history can be retained.”

The Swire Bridge
The Swire Bridge.

The cleaning of the monument is scheduled for 1pm, while the repainting of the Swire Bridge is scheduled for 2pm. Since 1989, the bridge has featured white lettering reading: “Souls of martyrs shall forever linger despite the brutal massacre; Spark of democracy shall forever glow for the demise of evils.”

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Holmes Chan is a reporter at Hong Kong Free Press. He covers local news with a focus on law, politics, and social movements. He studied law and literature at the University of Hong Kong.