June 4th protests

June 4 jolted pan-democrat trio into political activism

Bloody crackdown stirred pan-democrats into activism over city's future after '97 handover

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 June, 2013, 3:51am

Pan-democrats Gary Fan Kwok-wai, Kenneth Leung and Charles Mok have different constituents and represent slightly different viewpoints but their political awakening stemmed from the same event: the Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989.

The three, first elected to the Legislative Council last year, were studying or working abroad when the bloody military action sent out shock waves that still reverberate in the annual Victoria Park vigil, which they plan to attend tonight.

"The June 4 incident was a great [political] awakening for me," said Fan, 46, a NeoDemocrat representing New Territories East, then a designer studying in San Francisco. "At that time, my friends and I went to the Chinese embassy and called for an end to the killings. That was the first protest I had ever joined. Without the Tiananmen massacre, I would still be a designer today."

The crackdown, which ended a series of student-led protests calling for political reform in Beijing, focused the minds of young activists on the looming handover, then eight years away. It prompted Fan to ponder on such ideas as democracy, politics and the Chinese identity. He met Mok - then working in Massachusetts, but now an information technology-sector lawmaker - when they co-founded a union of Hong Kong students in the US.

After graduating from art school, Fan studied for a master's degree in politics at San Francisco State University. He returned to Hong Kong in 1997 to become an assistant to Democratic Party founding chairman Martin Lee Chu-ming and was elected a Sai Kung district councillor two years later, a post that he still holds.

The June 4 incident in 1989 triggered protests in Western countries, and Leung was among the participants.

"I have always cared about China and its development," Leung said. "But June 4 came as a great shock and disappointment to me. I was disillusioned about the political system in China, and I became more concerned about Hong Kong, especially because we were then set to be returned to China in eight years' time."

A London School of Economics graduate and an accountant in London then, Leung said he had "started to think of issues from a Hong Kong perspective" since the crackdown, and spent his free time in social movements such as the fight for Hongkongers' right of abode in Britain.

Leung returned to the city in 1995. Wishing for democracy and to monitor the government, he stood for election in the accountancy functional constituency in 2005. "It was the right time," he said. "June 4 had encouraged me to prepare myself for active involvement in politics … and professionals must not only care about our jobs and our lives."