Donations shame of students at June 4 vigil

Despite boycotting the Hong Kong event for at least three years and not sharing the sentiments of its organiser, some universities still go along to collect cash

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 6:41am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 June, 2018, 2:52pm

If you declare a political event irrelevant and snub it, you may at least have the decency not to send people there to collect donations. Not so with the Hong Kong Federation of Students.

The annual June 4 candlelight vigil is a cash cow for its organiser, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, as well as pro-democracy parties.

Despite student snub, attendance at June 4 vigil ‘higher than last year’

That’s fair. Unlike the well-funded pro-government parties, many opposition groups rely on public donations to survive. This year’s turnout to commemorate the Tiananmen Square crackdown was particularly robust, estimated by the alliance at 115,000, about 5,000 more than last year, though police put the figure at 17,000, down from last year’s 18,000.

Naturally, donations hit a new high. The alliance received about HK$1.47 million, followed by Demosisto (HK$333,000) and the League of Social Democrats (HK$322,000).

Other parties such as the Civic Party, People Power and the Labour Party also collected substantial donations. But then, they actively took part in the vigil.

The federation received just HK$8,352. Still, what was it doing there? All eight university student unions, which were until recently represented by the federation, boycotted the annual vigil for at least the third year in a row.

Hong Kong student groups snub vigil for Tiananmen crackdown

Four of the unions have withdrawn from the federation, leaving just those from Chinese University, Lingnan University, Shue Yan University and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

But even the four that remain have snubbed the annual gathering. Commenting on the vigil, William Chan Wai-lam, a vice-president of the Chinese University student union, said its members did not share the alliance’s agenda or the same feelings of mourning.

“If we consider ourselves Hongkongers, then it’s different … we won’t commemorate it from the standpoint of a people supporting its own,” he said, arguing that Hongkongers need not be Chinese.

Student activists, of course, have every right to support or reject any political movement they choose. Whether their decisions are wise is a different matter.

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But if you refuse to take part in something like the June 4 vigil, isn’t it kind of shameless to go there to collect donations?

Ever since declaring their advocacy for Hong Kong independence, the actions of student unions have often been incomprehensible. They prefer to dance to a different drum, offering reasoning that no one else shares or understands but themselves.