Dedicated Hong Kong follower of June 4 events pledges to attend vigils for as long as he can
Former driving instructor laments fact that more youngsters now no longer identify with mainland China
On May 28, 1989, then 52-year-old driving instructor Wong Ching-wo parked his car in Kowloon Tong and hopped on a bus heading to Central. From there, he joined the other 1.5 million Hongkongers in a massive demonstration supporting the pro-democracy protests in Beijing.
Six days later, Wong cried as he watched television footage of tanks rumbling down the streets of the capital and people covered in blood being rushed away on carts.
Since then, he has never missed one June 4 candlelight vigil remembering the crackdown. He will once more be at Victoria Park on Sunday to call on Beijing to rescind its denunciation of the Tiananmen protesters.
“I will be going to the vigil until I am not able to,” the 80-year-old said. “I hope I can see the verdict overturned during my lifetime. People deserve a result.”
Hong Kong has been hosting the world’s largest June 4 vigil since 1989. But amid the rise of localism, a growing number of youngsters, who do not empathise with the victims 28 years ago, have abandoned the symbolic event.
In 2015, the city’s largest student group, the Hong Kong Federation of Students, decided to skip the annual vigil, saying some members disagreed with the organiser’s goal of “building a democratic China”.
The same year, the Hong Kong University Students’ Union started to hold its own June 4 events focusing on democratic development in the city.
Meanwhile, pro-independence groups hold gatherings in Tsim Sha Tsui, attracting thousands of young supporters every year.
However, older democracy supporters like Wong, who have stronger ties with the mainland, pledge to carry on with the June 4 vigil despite dwindling interest from the younger generation.
Born in Taishan, Guangdong province, Wong came to Hong Kong on a steam train at the age of nine. Wong joined the scouts, which he said had made him a caring and committed person.
In 1989, he learned from the news that Beijing students were trying to root out corruption and decided to show his support by joining the demonstrations in the city.
“The protesters were our compatriots,” Wong said. “Hongkongers have this Chinese heart.”
The annual vigil offered him a chance to pay tribute to the victims while expressing anger towards the country’s leaders, Wong said. After the vigil ends, he always volunteers to remove steel fences and remove candle wax from the ground.
Wong said he was sad to see a declining number of young faces at the vigil.
He is also unimpressed by what young activists have come up with, from protests against mainland shoppers to the Mong Kok riot. Clashing with police was too extreme, while independence was never an option for Hong Kong, Wong said.
“Students these days know too little about China,” Wong said. “We are Chinese, and it is not about who rules the country. Although the Communist Party is not right, you must understand China and its history.”
Both Wong’s son and daughter-in-law have no interest in the June 4 events, but he said he would one day tell his four-year-old grandson about the Tiananmen crackdown.
“In the old days, everyone at the vigil was very motivated,” Wong said. “Now people have become aloof. They care more about themselves and making money.”