June 4th protests

Not ‘cold-blooded’ to call for end to commemoration of June 4, Chinese University student union says

Leader Au Tze-ho clarifies that group has no issue with mourning lives lost in 1989 Tiananmen crackdown; says criticism was aimed at format of annual vigil

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 12:02pm
UPDATED : Monday, 05 June, 2017, 10:22pm

The Chinese University of Hong Kong’s student union has rejected criticism that it was “cold-blooded” in issuing a statement saying the time to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown had come to an end.

Union president Au Tze-ho told students to remove their representatives from office if they were unhappy with the position taken.

But Au also clarified on Monday that the group did not see any problem with people wanting to mourn those killed in Beijing’s bloody crackdown in 1989. What the union took issue with was the format of the annual vigil, Au said.

Activists in Hong Kong and China struggle to keep memories of 1989 Tiananmen crackdown alive after nearly three decades of silence from Beijing

He made the remarks after a sea of candles lit up Hong Kong’s Victoria Park at the event on Sunday night – the only large-scale commemoration of the crackdown held on Chinese soil, as such activities or even mention of the incident on the mainland have been restricted.

“I don’t feel I am cold-blooded,” Au said on a Commercial Radio programme on Monday. “What we felt was that there was no need to organise an event for collective mourning. June 4 is a very important event for Hong Kong. There is no problem with you mourning the deaths personally. What we take issue with is the format of the commemoration.”

He said the union was not trying to cut itself off from what happened on June 4, 1989. It had considered organising a forum to link the crackdown to Hong Kong’s current political situation, Au said, but gave up on the idea as it could not come up with a suitable forum topic that had not already been discussed.

On Saturday, the group issued a statement that said: “The union believes the commemoration has come to an end, and June 4 needs to be marked with a full stop until the echo sounds.”

The other photographers who snapped Tiananmen’s Tank Man, and their memories of June 4, 1989 in Beijing

It accused the vigil’s organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, of turning the event into a ritual and “making use of the public’s moral sentiment to build up its political capital”.

A group of outraged Chinese University alumni and students responded by issuing their own statement criticising the union for being “ignorant”, “cold-blooded” and “lazy”.

Watch: Time for reflection for organisers of June 4 vigil

“We are aware that some Chinese University students have signed a petition saying they disagree with our statement and that it does not represent their views. We expected such criticism before we issued the statement,” Au said.

“If the students really do not agree with us and feel that [the statement] was immoral, there is a mechanism by which they can remove us from office.”

Tiananmen vigil draws lowest turnout since 2008

Former Chinese University student union president Tommy Cheung Sau-yin said on the same radio programme that if the union did not like the idea of the vigil, it could have organised something else, such as an exhibition.

He said the union had played an important role in letting more young people know what happened in Tiananmen Square 28 years ago. He also defended the vigil organiser, saying the alliance had to raise money through the vigil to build a permanent June 4 museum.

Alliance chairman Albert Ho Chun-yan said on Monday that people of different nationalities went to the vigil for humanitarian reasons, and that it was a “cross-border” matter.

“You should not have told everyone to stop mourning. That hurt many people’s feelings,” Ho said.