Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen made the mistake of saying that his views on the Tiananmen Square military crackdown on June 4, 1989, 'represents the opinion of Hong Kong people in general'. For this mistake, he quickly apologised. 'It is absolutely not my intention to say that my views can represent the views of all Hong Kong people,' he said after leaving the legislative chamber. 'If this has caused any person any misunderstanding, I am prepared to offer my apology.' However, he did not apologise for his original statement, made in response to a question by legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee about his stance on vindication of the students involved in the movement. This statement is worth studying because it must have been made after much consideration. After all, with the approach of the 20th anniversary, Mr Tsang must have known that someone in the Legislative Council would ask about the Tiananmen Square events. It would have been too much to expect Mr Tsang, who was after all appointed by Beijing, to take a public position contrary to that of the central government and the Communist Party. Still, as a politician, he had to be prepared to talk about June 4 without antagonising either his superiors in Beijing or the majority of the people of Hong Kong. The Bible tells us that no man can serve two masters, but the Basic Law makes the chief executive answerable to both Beijing and Hong Kong. This is by no means an easy task, but Mr Tsang could probably have handled the situation a little better. In answer to Ms Ng's question, Mr Tsang said: 'I understand Hong Kong people's feelings about June 4, but the incident happened many years ago. The country's development in many areas has since achieved tremendous results and brought economic prosperity to Hong Kong. I believe Hong Kong people will make an objective assessment of the nation's development.' The problem lies in linking 'the incident' to 'the country's development in many areas' and the 'economic prosperity' in Hong Kong. This suggests that the prosperity enjoyed on the mainland and in Hong Kong today is a direct result of the massacre of students 20 years ago. The corollary is that, if students had not been sacrificed, China would not have developed as well and Hong Kong would not be as prosperous. These may be the arguments of Chinese officials. They do not have to be made by a Hong Kong chief executive, unless of course he believes them. Mr Tsang could have said that the Tiananmen events occurred many years ago, and people in Hong Kong will no doubt make an objective assessment. That would not have been provocative to leaders in Beijing; nor would it have identified Mr Tsang with one side or another over the rights and wrongs of the crackdown. Mr Tsang should know that June 4 is still a highly emotional issue here. Last month, Ayo Chan Yi-ngok, president of the University of Hong Kong student union, was voted out of office for saying that some of the 1989 student leaders had acted irrationally and that the military crackdown could have been avoided if the demonstrators had dispersed peacefully. It was also Mr Tsang's bad luck that the day he spoke in Legco was the day the news broke about the posthumous publication of the secret memoirs of ex-party leader Zhao Ziyang, who had opposed the crackdown. Hong Kong should not be obsessed with June 4. It should view the events of 20 years ago with greater realism rather than emotionalism. Realism suggests that the party is unlikely to reassess the Tiananmen Square protests until more time has elapsed - until, at least, those who decided to crack down on unarmed protesters, and the beneficiaries of that decision, are no longer on the scene. But there is little doubt that, sooner or later, the truth of what happened 20 years ago will be officially recognised. Frank Ching is a Hong Kong-based writer and commentator.