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June 4th protests

Time to commemorate Tiananmen crackdown has come to an end, student union says

Chinese University of Hong Kong student union issues statement that prompts fierce condemnation from supporters of the annual June 4 vigil

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 June, 2017, 3:37pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 12:48am

The time to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown “has come to an end”, student leaders from one of the city’s ­major universities said on Sunday on the 28th anniversary of the ­incident, prompting a fierce backlash from many supporters of the June 4 vigil.

The student union of Chinese University issued the statement hours before thousands of Hongkongers gathered to mark the anniversary of the bloody crackdown by attending the ­annual candlelight vigil last night in Victoria Park.

While Hong Kong is the only place on Chinese soil where large-scale commemorative events can still be held, support for such ­activities has waned in recent years amid the rise of localism in the city. Student unions from all the city’s universities said they would boycott the vigil on Sunday for the second year in a row.

The Chinese University statement read: “The union believes the commemoration has come to an end, and June 4 needs to be marked with a full stop until the echo resounds.”

The union criticised vigil ­organiser the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic ­Democratic Movements of China, saying it had turned the event into a ritual and “made use of the public’s moral sentiment to build up its political capital”.

It said Hongkongers should focus on local political issues, as the alliance’s repeated appeals for vindication of the Beijing protesters involved in the June 4 crackdown were futile.

It further warned against turning the commemoration into a “political cradle for patriotism”.

However, the union said its boycott of the vigil did not mean it had forgotten about June 4.

In response, alliance secretary Lee Cheuk-yan called the statement heartbreaking.

“The alliance is not asking people to love the country or not,” said Lee, a former lawmaker. “Lighting the candle does not ­represent your views on the ­pursuit of democracy. It’s a candle light of accusation.”

He urged opposition groups to seek common ground and claimed advocating democracy on the mainland did not ­contradict fighting for democracy in Hong Kong.

A survey by the University of Hong Kong showed 27 per cent of those polled did not support ­vindication of the protesters in the crackdown – a record-high figure for this question since 2006.

However, the younger the ­respondents, the more they blamed the Chinese government for the crackdown, and the more they demanded vindication of the demonstrators.

Youth activists look to keep June 4 vigil flames burning

In response to the union’s statement, a group of Chinese University alumni and students issued their own statement, criticising the union for being “ignorant”, “cold-blooded” and “lazy”.

Former Chinese University student union president Tommy Cheung Sau-yin echoed those criticisms.

“It is important to pass on the memories while the authorities are working hard to deny the ­history,” he said.