Public Eye

Tiananmen Square: is it any of our business?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 3:36am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 3:36am

Tiananmen Square: is it our business to care?

Has it been 25 years already? How can a memory that is a quarter-century old remain so vivid in the minds of so many? Yet it has. The June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown, incident, massacre - call it what you will - is no ordinary memory. That was the day Chinese troops opened fire on protesters who staged huge rallies in the capital against rampant corruption - rallies which then morphed into a mass democracy movement. Today, 25 years later, the democracy fire ignited by the Tiananmen movement still burns in Hong Kong even though the world has confined the crackdown to the history books. How many turn up for tonight's annual Victoria Park candlelight vigil will be a test of how deeply Hongkongers still care. But is it our business to care? We are the only society to mark the event on a large scale every year; Chinese communities elsewhere have moved on. Yes, people were killed, some say in cold blood. Yes, Beijing has yet to atone convincingly for this black mark in its history. No one knows for sure how many died on that fateful night. Beijing needs to set the record straight, if not for the world or Hongkongers, then for its own conscience. A prerequisite for a nation aspiring to be a respected superpower in the 21st century is that it knows how to do the right thing. The trouble with Hongkongers is that we are merging our fight for democracy with our desire for democracy on the mainland. We always insist that mainland leaders stay out of our domestic affairs, but isn't demanding that they democratise meddling in theirs? If growing prosperity in a nation of 1.3 billion has diminished the people's appetite for democracy, is it our business to fight on their behalf at the risk of disadvantaging our own fight? If the mainland cannot spawn its own Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, is it our duty to take up that role? That is worth thinking about.


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Michael Chugani is a columnist and television show host.