First-timers from mainland tell of their shock and want to learn more

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 June, 2012, 12:00am

For 18-year-old Mok Cheuk-ngai, last night's candle-light vigil was his first.

Mok, who moved from Guangdong two years ago, said he knew virtually nothing about what happened in Tiananmen Square 23 years ago until he started researching the incident after arriving in Hong Kong.

'I didn't even know something big happened on June 4,' he said. 'I was shocked when I realised the Beijing government could conceal such a big event,' he said.

Crowds filled Victoria Park's six football pitches by 7.40pm. Soon after, organisers ran out of candles and appealed to people to use their phones as sources of light.

As former University of Hong Kong student union representative Samuel Li Shing-hong spoke on stage, a man ran up and snatched the microphone and threw it to the ground. Li was among a group of HKU students who were pushed into a stairwell at a protest during a visit to the campus by Vice-Premier Li Keqiang in August.

A man also threw a bottle at the stage, aiming at Democratic Party chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan. He missed his target and left the park.

Many attending were from the mainland and said they wanted to know more about the crackdown.

Li Runzhou, 38, from Zhejiang province, had visited the city many times before, but was attending the vigil for the first time. 'In the past, I didn't realise the country was so bad,' he said. 'There are so many problems in education, medical services and people's livelihoods.'

Li's sister, who took part in the Tiananmen Square movement in 1989, was at home in Anhui.

'She was lucky. She left on June 3,' said Li, who works for a sales company.

'It's very bad on the mainland. Those who were born in the 1990s or later know absolutely nothing about the crackdown.' Li said he would tell his children, aged three and six, about it when they grew up.

Another mainlander, a university researcher from Shenzhen, also said he was attending the vigil for the first time. 'I want to know more about the crackdown,' he said. 'Knowing so little now, it's difficult to make a fair judgment on who's right and who's wrong.'

He said he felt Hong Kong enjoyed much more freedom than the mainland.

Coco Chen, 22, a University of Hong Kong student from Jiangxi province, attended on her own. 'This is my first time, although I heard the vigil had been very big in recent years,' she said. 'I believe June 4 must be vindicated because the government was wrong to kill its own people. They should not hide the truth any more.'

Chen said she read about the crackdown on the internet while at high school but did not realise people had died in the protests until she came to Hong Kong.

Yuki Chiu Fat, 17, from Hong Kong, lit a candle with eight classmates.

They had just finished a public exam, and learned of the crackdown from their teacher. 'When we were younger, we hardly understood what happened,' Chiu said. 'Now we can think critically and can research the crackdown.'

Local university student Dave Leung Yam, 20, said it was regrettable the student movement 23 years ago was not successful. 'Even though I was only born in 1992, I have watched television programmes about June 4 and read magazine articles about it.'