Friday, June 19, 2009

Guest Column: Hong Kong Vigil for Tiananmen Anniversary

By N. Jayaram

Hong Kong-based journalist and human rights reporter N. Jayaram wrote this on June 4, which marked the 20th anniversary of the bloody crackdown against protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Hong Kong, June 4.

I got back a while ago from Victoria Park, the sprawling open air space in the midst of one of the prime shopping areas of Hong Kong, where more than 150,000 people gathered for a candlelight vigil to commemorate those killed on the night of June 3-4, 1989 in Beijing in the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement.

The turnout was amazing. This was the second time that the Hong Kong people have made me sit up and take notice of their political attitude and their firm support for democratisation and for basic freedoms. The first occasion was on July 1, 2003, when more than half a million people, perhaps more than 600,000, marched to oppose the government's attempt to adopte an anti-sedition bill that would have choked off dissent.

It is said that the numbers were boosted this time, not only because it was to mark 20 years after Tianananmen but also because Hong Kong's Beijing-appointed chief executive, Donald Tsang, recently angered the city's residents by saying critics have to take into account the progress China has made and that his views represented those of the general public.

Whatever the reasons behind the huge numbers who attended today's vigil in none too salubrious conditions following a blisteringly hot and muggy day, the commemoration represents Hong Kong people's aspirations for a greater level of freedom for their 1.4 billion compatriots on the mainland and a profound regret that a great opportunity was missed because of the 1989 massacre.

In many parts of the world, blood has been shed on perhaps more massive scales than on June 4, 1989. But few have been the occasions when the full force of an army that labels itself "The People's" mowed down so many of the people from among whom its ranks were recruited, in order to preserve in power a small elite fattening on capitalist policies while invoking dead communist icons.

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