June 4 anniversary a reminder of bonds between Hong Kong and mainland China

Vigil remembering victims of Tiananmen crackdown is also about how the ‘one country, two systems’ model is faring and our hopes for the nation’s future

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 June, 2016, 11:22pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 June, 2016, 11:22pm

This day, June 4, is of great significance for many Hongkongers and Chinese around the world. Tonight, masses will go to Victoria Park for the annual candlelight vigil remembering the victims of Beijing’s crackdown on the pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square in 1989. But the occasion is about much more, representing the differences between our city and the mainland, how the “one country, two systems” model under which we are governed is faring and our hopes for the nation’s future. Those who believe we should move on as nothing has been achieved from 27 years of commemoration and protest are missing that importance.

Why Hong Kong’s student leaders are abandoning June 4 vigil

Some younger people have turned their backs on the occasion, contending that it has failed in its objectives. The goal of the organiser of the vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, is to bring about nationwide democracy. But there has been little sign of that with the process even on hold in Hong Kong and Beijing continuing its suppression of mention of June 4 on the mainland and harassment of those seeking justice for the victims.

Hong Kong’s laws protecting the right of freedom of expression make our city one of the few places in China where those aspirations can be voiced, but a rift has developed among university students as to the way forward. A minority believe that cross-border links should be severed and our city should go its own way.

Firefighters remove ‘Never forget June 4’ banner unfurled on Kowloon slope

Such views ignore the inextricable ties between Hong Kong and the mainland. Those links require working together, as much for the good of our city as the nation. The June 4 anniversary is a reminder of those bonds. Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, previously tactful about mention of the incident at this time of year, this week made that point, saying that the sides are “connected by blood” and residents “should care about major incidents that took place on the mainland”.

The images of People’s Liberation Army soldiers opening fire on students, tanks rolling into the square and the bodies of those who died long ago ceased to be the focus of the commemoration. Nor should the number of how many go to Victoria Park this evening be what is most important. The events in and around the square 27 years ago and the central government’s position on them continue to colour perceptions of the mainland in Hong Kong and around the world. Moving forward requires Beijing having the courage to deal with matters openly, fairly and compassionately.