Twenty years on from the bloody crackdown, June 4 seems a taboo topic in Hong Kong's leftist circles. Yet silence does not mean the day has been forgotten. While the Beijing-friendly Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong maintains an official silence on the issue, conversations with some left-wing figures reveal that sentiments still run strong. For former legislator Gary Cheng Kai-nam, memories of the frontline experience supporting students in Tiananmen Square before the crackdown are still vivid. Mr Cheng, on behalf of the Hong Kong Federation of Education Workers, took HK$500,000 in cash donated in response to an appeal in Hong Kong. 'At that time, citizens' response was very enthusiastic,' Mr Cheng, who was a vice-chairman of the DAB from 1997-2000, recalled. 'We called on people to deposit donations into a Bank of China account. Within an hour, the bank's ATM system went down because too many people were making deposits,' said Mr Cheng, who was part of a core committee of the All Hongkong Citizens' Alliance in Support of the Chinese Patriotic Pro-Democracy Movement during the upheaval. On May 27, 1989, Mr Cheng set off for a six-day trip to Beijing, with a large pile of HK$1,000 banknotes in his luggage - and the mission to ensure Hongkongers' donations would be used appropriately. He was faced with a difficult question of how to handle the money. The federation initially planned to hand the funds to the Beijing Red Cross, which was taking care of protesting students in the square. But there were worries among the Hong Kong public that the Red Cross could be easily controlled by the Communist government. Mr Cheng recalled meeting a group of Beijing university students as he struggled with the dilemma. 'I asked whether I should hand them the cash. Their reply surprised me. 'They told me, sensibly, that it would be of no use, firstly because the money was in Hong Kong dollars. Secondly, they were afraid if they deposited the funds into banks, it would all be gone if the government ordered their accounts frozen. 'So they proposed that we hand the money to the Red Cross, so that it could buy things such as tents, disinfection materials ... and flu medicine for them. These student leaders were very clever, calm and pragmatic.' Mr Cheng left the capital on June1 and did not witness the crackdown. 'I had expected the government would clear the square. However I did not expect that they would do it in that way,' he said. 'I could not accept the military suppression. I think the mainland government should give an explanation.' Mr Cheng believes that the movement will, ultimately, be recognised by the mainland government. 'In the past 10 to 20 years, although there have been many unsatisfactory things in China's political development, it has been moving in a direction which will only make it closer to, not further from, a symbolic vindication of June 4.' But he believed some time was needed before the central authorities would take the step. 'I can wait, but I will not forget,' he added. His former DAB colleague, Chan Yuen-han, now a vice-president of the Federation of Trade Unions, said it was wrong for the mainland government to fire on students and citizens. 'Twenty years on, my views remain the same. The mainland authorities should not have used guns and bullets to handle the issue no matter what difference existed between them and students,' she said. The mainland authorities should find a way to liaise with families of those who died during the crackdown, she said. But she would not be drawn on whether she supported the call for vindicating the 1989 pro-democracy movement. Basic Law Committee member Lau Nai-keung holds a different view. He believes the use of force on June 4 was inevitable because the situation in Beijing and many other mainland cities was out of control. As a then-delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and the chairman of the local pro-democracy group Meeting Point, Mr Lau drafted a joint statement by Hong Kong CPPCC members before the crackdown, urging Beijing to hold talks with students. 'I was very angry and disappointed,' Mr Lau said of his feelings when he first heard the news of the military suppression. But he said his views had changed later, after new information emerged. 'All objective evidence suggests that students dispersed peacefully from the square that night,' he said, citing remarks by hunger strikers Zhou Duo , Hou Dejian and Liu Xiaobo after the incident. 'Nowadays, many Hong Kong people still believe tanks crushed students in the square to death ... if the army really did this, it would be a true massacre and would not be forgivable. But it is not what happened that night,' he said, adding that he would not call June 4 a 'massacre', and called on people to view the incident objectively. Historian and CPPCC member Chan Man-hung said: 'The incident was a very unfortunate one. I think it was really a tragedy.' But he said existing information was insufficient for a judgment to be made now. 'After some time, people will be calmer and rethink the past more objectively,' Dr Chan said. Ms Chan, Mr Lau and Dr Chan all said they had marched in 1989, along with hundreds of thousands of Hongkongers. However, most Beijing-friendly politicians in the city prefer to avoid the topic. DAB chairman Tam Yiu-chung would only say: 'The DAB does not plan to comment on this incident any more.' New vice-chairman Horace Cheung Kwok-kwan said: 'June 4 was an incident which no Chinese would want to see. I think history will have its own conclusion.'