'Tiananmen has been an ongoing trauma for me': HK activists recall pain of June 4 protests
Recalling the events of 1989 traumatised Dr Lam Yik-tsz.
She found herself unable to sleep as she tried to make sense of her memories of events in Tiananmen Square.
The former student activist tried sleeping pills, then changed her routine to wake up at 5am and write. It took her more than a month to finish the work.
“The Tiananmen Square crackdown has been an ongoing trauma for me,” Lam said. “Old wounds were reopened when I wrote these articles, but I have a duty to tell the truth about the tragedy.”
Lam, now a family doctor, was one of 30 students from the Chinese University of Hong Kong who delivered money raised by the student union to those protesting for democratic reform in Beijing.
In 1991, she and a dozen other Chinese University students co-authored a book detailing their role in the pro-democracy movement. They have written a revised edition to mark the 25th anniversary of the movement.
Entitled We were in Beijing During Spring-Summer of 1989, it is due out this month. It is will be published in Chinese and is sponsored by the Foundation for China’s Democratic Movement under the student union.
Lam and her fellow students made a down-to-earth contribution to the pro-democracy movement, including handing out bread to the protestors and posting photocopies of Hong Kong newspaper reports in nearby streets.
“Many mainland students were in a heroic mood and didn’t take care much about bread-and-butter issues,” she said. “I decided to buy bread from bakeries in Beijing and arranged deliveries to Tiananmen Square. I still have the receipts.”
Lam arrived in Beijing on May 24, and left a day after the bloody June 4 crackdown.
She recalls being in Xidan, 2km west of the square, in the early hours of that fateful day. She heard gunshots, and later saw people who had been shot by People’s Liberation Army troops.
“It was totally wrong to open fire on students. What wrong had the victims done?” Lam said.
She came home the next day on a charter flight arranged by the Hong Kong government.
Chong Yiu-kwong, who was vice-president of the Chinese University student union in 1989, said many Hongkongers had come to believe June 4 was only a matter for mainlanders.
“They know little about the participation of those Chinese University students 25 years ago. They risked their lives because they cared about the betterment of our country,” he said.
The theme for last year’s June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park – “Love the country, love the people” – sparked a row between organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China and advocates of Hong Kong autonomy.
Some supporters of autonomy claim that whether the mainland is democratic or not is irrelevant to Hong Kong people.
The alliance subsequently dropped the slogan.
Student union president Tommy Cheung Sau-yin said pro-autonomy activists were too narrow-minded. “We can’t afford to be ignorant about what happens on the mainland, whose development has a significant impact on Hong Kong,” he said. “It’s not conducive to building the identity of Hong Kong people if we don’t care about the situation on the mainland.”