Kris Cheng | Hong Kong Free Press
The leader of the University of Hong Kong student union has said that the younger generation in Hong Kong does not feel a connection with the Beijing students in the 1989 democratic movement, but nevertheless continues the tradition of attending annual commemoration events on campus.
The students conducted the annual washing of the Pillar of Shame located in the Sai Ying Pun campus on Friday, in commemoration of the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre.
The student union of HKU will not attend the annual candlelight vigil hosted by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in the evening on June 4, but will instead host their own forum in the afternoon that day.
The forum’s topic will be “The Residual Significance of June Fourth Massacre when Patriotism Comes to an End,” and will include a moment of silence.
“In the past when we look at June 4 we have a strong feeling of being patriotic or being Chinese. If there are fewer and fewer people in society who have that feeling, how should we view the matter of June 4?” said student union president Wong Ching-tak.
Wong said he does not identify as Chinese or Hong Kong Chinese, but as a Hongkonger.
“The Alliance has made changes in recent years – we can all see that,” he said. “But people can still sense the strong Chinese feeling during the candlelight vigil – [it suggests that] the Beijing students were like us, that they wanted a better China, but they were brutally suppressed. So we should continue commemorating June 4 and supporting democratic movements in China, so their sacrifices will not be wasted.”
“But if we look at Hong Kong society, especially the young people, this feeling of being Chinese has disappeared. As identity and emotional ties have changed a lot, I believe we have a very different understanding of the Tiananmen massacre [compared to the Alliance].”
Wong said the June 4 massacre made Hong Kong people realise there would be costs when fighting for democracy, since students in the 1989 movement were conducting peaceful protests, but they were still suppressed as they threatened the party’s rule.
He added that the washing activity, and the repainting of slogans on the Swire Bridge commemorating June 4 to be conducted later, were part of the history of the HKU student union. Through the events, students can not only commemorate the incident, but also understand the union’s history.
Cheng Tsz-ho, current affairs secretary of the union, said HKU students had passed a motion in 2009 that the union would always support the vindication of the June 4 massacre. He added that the washing activity was not a mourning event, but the union hoped it would help students be better informed about the incident.
The pillar, made by Danish artist Jens Galschiøt, was escorted to the campus by students in 1997 after the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park. Although the police and campus security tried to block students, creating scenes of confrontation, the police eventually gave way, saying the university was a private area and letting the students enter.
Since then, the HKU student union and the Alliance have been washing the pillar every year ahead of June 4. They have washed the pillar separately since 2015 as student cabinets said they held ideological differences with the Alliance over “building a democratic China.”
This year the Alliance washed the pillar on May 4.