Monday, 4 June 2012

We Remember 23 Years Later

A sea of candles in Victoria Park
I just came back from attending my second Tiananmen candlelight vigil at Victoria Park tonight, marking the 23rd anniversary.

Participants inching their way into the park
My friend and I got there a bit later than last year so there was already a massive crowd trying to get into the park. There was no pushing, but very orderly despite the throngs of people.

We were thinking mainland Chinese who came out of the shopping malls in Causeway Bay might be wondering why there were hordes of people and go follow them to see what all the fuss was about.

Along the way we saw some strange performance art and activists trying to make an extra buck with T-shirts and cloth bags; the new one this year was a tic-tac-toe and the numbers "6" and "4" in various squares.

There were also politicians on the democracy band wagon. First we saw Longhair Leung Kwok-hung appealing to people for donations, and after passing him the next loud voice was People Power activist Wong Yeung-tat, who was recently released from jail for three weeks for civil disobedience. He was sentenced in March for gate-crashing a public forum on a government proposal to scrap Legco by-elections.

Watching some curious performance art along the way
Instead of asking for money, Wong incited the crowd saying "F*** off Leung Chun-ying!" and many eagerly followed his chants. It seemed he was keen to create more trouble again.

We finally made it into Victoria Park and got our requisite candle and paper cone holder and set off to find a spot to sit down. The place quickly filled up and we sat to the right of the stage, but way back.

The event was similar to last year with the same songs, and speeches, but a few different things to the program.

Exiled Tiananmen leader Wang Dan gave a video message and widow Guo Liying, who lost her husband in the crackdown, both saying how thrilled they are that Hong Kong was still commemorating the event and that the fight for vindication of June 4 was still not over 23 years later.

Activist Fang Zheng, who lost both his legs when he was run over by a tank came to Hong Kong for the event from San Francisco.

Fang Zheng was able to attend the event this year, his first
He thanked the crowd for coming and admitted he was at a loss for words of what to say and shed some tears after his speech.

Perhaps most moving was seeing the news footage of Tiananmen at the time, watching the tanks rolling in, people running in all directions, doctors with blood-stained lab coats trying to save people and people carrying bodies in sheets. It was a vivid reminder of the time and why we had all gathered together.

Very heartening was seeing so many young people, many of whom were not even born 23 years ago, eagerly taking part in the event.

While we were glad we went, my friend and I wondered why there weren't more stirring speeches to get the crowd whipped up with emotion. It would have been good to have a short, but emotional speech in English, Cantonese and Mandarin so that everyone was covered.

Participants chant demanding for vindication of June 4
Nevertheless, it was amazing to see so many people stop and reflect -- and vow to never forget those who lost their lives 23 years ago today.

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