My Take

The complexities of setting up a June 4 exhibit in Hong Kong

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 2:40am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 April, 2014, 2:40am

Is an office deed dispute over a June 4 exhibition another case of political interference, negligence by an anti-Beijing group - or both?

A memorial museum devoted exclusively to the June 4 incident was to open next week in an office building in Tsim Sha Tsui. The permanent exhibition is organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, which bought the office space for almost HK$10 million for the express purpose of housing the museum.

However, according to the alliance, the building owners' incorporation has sent a legal letter warning the exhibition would violate the building's deed of mutual covenant, which allows only office use from the fourth floor up; the mini-museum is on the fifth floor. The deed also prohibits owners and tenants from causing nuisance and disturbance to others, and the incorporation said the exhibition would do just that. Negotiations are continuing.

The alliance, co-founded by the late Szeto Wah and which has organised the June 4 vigil every year in Victoria Park, has tried to set up such a memorial for a long time, but lack of funding has delayed it until now. It's hard to know what prompted the incorporation to take action just on the eve of the exhibition's opening. Maybe they only just found out about it. But it also seems the alliance has been careless and negligent. Shouldn't they have sorted out these legal issues from the start when they made the multimillion dollar purchase, instead of seemingly being taken by surprise?

Without knowing the ins and outs of what looks like a legal dispute over a deed, it's hard to take sides. But there is no dispute that June 4 is still an open wound which we have never come to terms with. It's unlikely any June 4 discussions will take off anytime soon on the mainland. But in Hong Kong, we have the freedom and resources to confront it. We think young mainlanders know nothing about it. Well, we ourselves don't know much about the complexities involved in understanding this event either.

The alliance's exhibition should be encouraged. But it has over the years given us only a one-sided narrative. Greater open debate will help us understand this crucial event in the opening and rise of China.