Tiananmen Square crackdown

Reluctance to discuss June 4

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 June, 2006, 12:00am

Veteran democracy activist Szeto Wah was wrong when he said Hong Kong was the only place on Chinese soil where candles were lit to mark the Tiananmen crackdown.

Every June 4, Macau's activists hold a vigil at Senado Square to mourn the hundreds of students killed in the 1989 protests.

True, this year's turnout of less than 100 outside St Dominic's Church was nothing compared to the sea of candlelight at Hong Kong's Victoria Park. But the enclave's activists, some of whom have taken part in the annual ritual for the past 17 years, deserve credit for their persistence in a more conservative political environment.

Macau residents are generally more reluctant to discuss or participate in politics than Hong Kong people.

To the activists, the small turnout is less of a concern than the ignorance of the 1989 student movement among young people in Macau.

Democracy activist Lee Kin-yun said the vigil's organisers were having great difficulty attracting young participants.

'Macau schools don't want to talk about politics for fear of offending Beijing,' he said.

'The young people are disregarding it [the 1989 incident]. We have limited resources to counter the authorities' efforts to make them forget.'

While talk of the June 4 incident is taboo at many Macau schools, the May Fourth movement - another historic student protest in China - is widely known.

China's Communist Party played a positive role in the pro-democracy campaign triggered by student protests in 1919.

About 10 Macau students attended the June 4 vigil and most of them were reluctant to give their full names when asked to comment on the 1989 incident.

But a dance show on the other side of the square attracted plenty of teenagers.

'I believe it should not be forgotten, however fast China's economy is growing,' said Summer Ha, a third-year university student who was at the vigil. 'We need to respect history, and I'm doing my part today to keep the memory intact.'

Mr Leong, another university student, said he was exercising a basic human right rather than hoping to change anything.

'It's impossible for me to make any contribution, but I cherish the right to commemorate the event, which may not be possible in many other places in China,' he said.