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Tiananmen Square crackdown

Pro-Beijing Hong Kong legislator breaks ranks to back June 4 memorial motion

Junius Ho says Beijing protesters of 1989 ‘had a noble goal’, after voting for motion that eventually lost

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 June, 2017, 7:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 09 June, 2017, 12:41am

Pro-Beijinger Junius Ho Kwan-yiu broke ranks with his pro-establishment colleagues by backing a motion remembering the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, which was defeated in the Legislative Council on Thursday.

Pro-establishment lawmakers largely remained silent during the debate, the 17th time the motion has been tabled and defeated since 1999.

Ho did not speak in the chamber during the three-hour debate, but showed up at the end to vote.

The non-binding motion sought to express disapproval at the central government’s bloody crackdown on a pro-democracy protest in the centre of Beijing on June 4, 1989, in which many activists died. Though the death toll may never be known, hundreds, maybe more than 1,000, died.

In a reference to the students who led the crushed movement, Ho said: “I highly appreciate the students. They had a noble goal.”

A total of 25 legislators supported the motion, tabled by the Democratic Party’s Helena Wong Pik-wan, while 23 voted against it and six abstained.

But under Legco’s split-voting rule, a member’s motion can only be passed with majority support in both the geographical constituencies and the functional constituencies. The pro-establishment camp dominates the latter.

In the geographical seats, 16 voted for the motion, nine voted against and one abstained. But in the functional seats, only nine voted for the motion, 14 voted against it and five abstained.

Tabling the motion, Wong said: “There has been much progress and development in our country in recent decades, but those were only in the economic aspect, and China is not more democratic nowadays than 28 years ago.”

On June 4 this year, a sea of candlelight blanketed Victoria Park as tens of thousands of people converged to mourn those killed in the assault. Turnout was the lowest since 2008.

The vigil’s organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said 110,000 people attended.

Speaking in Legco, alliance standing committee member Leung Yiu-chung said Hong Kong must continue to remember June 4, as it is the only place in China where any memorial of the crackdown is allowed.

Why are Hong Kong activists arguing over the annual June 4 vigil? And are we too fixated on the turnout?

“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory; against forgetting,” Leung said.

Independent pan-democrat Claudia Mo Man-ching said she was disappointed by critics who described the vigil as “too ritualistic”.

Nathan Law Kwun-chung, 23, the only legislator born after 1989, reminded young people not to take Hong Kong’s freedom for granted. He said as long as Hongkongers are ruled by the regime which suppressed the pro-democracy movement 28 years ago, they should mourn the victims and remember history.

Liberal Party leader Felix Chung Kwok-pan was the only member from the pro-establishment bloc to make his stance known during the debate. Four Liberals, and non-affiliated pro-establishment lawmakers Michael Tien Puk-sun and Chan Kin-por abstained.

“The rights and wrongs of the June 4 incident should be left for history to judge,” Chung said. “I believe many Chinese and Hongkongers would see the June 4 incident as a tragedy… but we should allow time for the country to launch democratic reforms.”