Saturday, 4 June 2016

Another Year to Remember June 4

Thousands of people walking past political party stalls to get to Victoria Park
Today I thought it wouldn't rain with blue skies, but around 2.30pm it started raining buckets and I got pretty soaked. Would the weather affect tonight's turnout for the June 4th candlelight vigil?

Luckily it started drying up around 4pm and the temperature cooled down too, making it the perfect conditions for the annual event in Victoria Park.

Joshua Wong got lots of attention
Coming out of the Causeway Bay MTR just after 7pm, there were throngs of people, with politicians of all stripes shouting into microphones to get noticed and garner donations. I didn't realize we had that many political parties!

Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung of the Labour Party was there, Audrey Eu Yuet-mee of the Civic Party, even Joshua Wong Chi-fung wore a turquoise T-shirt that read, "Determine our future", and getting a lot of attention from smartphone snaps.

It seems they were all out in force on the street towards Victoria Park because once inside, there were fewer booths than before.

Arriving almost 45 minutes before the event and I managed to get a spot in the front half of the park; it was worrying to see lots of empty patches that had yet to be filled.

But in the end, organizers say 125,000 people showed up, down 135,000 from last year. Tomorrow the police will say only half that number was there... nevertheless it was a relief to know that even though the Federation of Students, the University of Hong Kong and Chinese University were organizing their own events, there was still a united crowd in Victoria Park.

Democracy Goddess wants universal suffrage
In fact at one point in the vigil, a Chinese University professor came on stage to explain that even though he was from that university, and it was his alma mater, he felt it was important to come to Victoria Park instead, which got applause from the audience.

Two other students were with him, who also said the other university groups' choice of opting out wasn't their choice, that they preferred to be with us, and that they (the student unions) didn't represent an entire generation. It was an honest answer, but also a stinging public rebuke against the student groups that claimed they were more concerned about fighting for democracy in Hong Kong than in China.

The vigil also remained relevant by talking about forced disappearances, a direct reference to the missing booksellers that horrified Hong Kong people. They showed video clips of Lee Po that seemed so outrageous in his attempts to do verbal gymnastics in explaining his bizarre trips to the mainland without using his return home permit.

Another speaker was Jonathan Chan Ching-wa, a representative of the Hong Kong Federation of Students who was in Beijing during the Tiananmen protests in 1989. He tearfully recalled when they left for the airport, an old man knew they were from Hong Kong and instructed them to tell the world what had happened.

Organizers say some 125,000 people attended this evening
I have read comments from political commentator Johnny Lau Yui-siu in many articles, but as he pointed out when he got on stage, not many people have seen him in person, but now we had, much to the delight of the audience.

He gave a fiery speech, talking about how Beijing is still trying to exert its influence in Hong Kong, mostly through money, that it had been trying to sway foreign media through business investment -- Australia is the most recent one.

Lau added that the Chinese government didn't understand that its people don't just want economic gains, but also freedoms on the mainland.

Tonight's program in Chinese and English
By the end, there were calls for people to donate to the June 4th Museum so that it could move to another location. The landlord of the current premises is making it difficult for them to operate. And so there are calls for donations of at least HK$100 per person.

When the event was over, tens of thousands of us walked back to the MTR in an orderly manner even though there was lots of police presence. Some 300 people are walking to the Liaison office in Western with three paper figurines, representing Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng and Yang Shangkun, the three officials who were believed to have ordered the crackdown in and around Tiananmen Square.

For some reason, this year seemed particularly sad to me -- was it because we have to mark yet another year and still stony silence from Beijing?




2 comments:

  1. Thanks for the detailed account. My experiences last night were similar to yours -- except that I didn't feel that this year had a particularly sad feeling. I think, if anything, I'd say the mood felt more committed than in other years. There may have been fewer people there this year but those who were there definitely were there to make a point, and I trust that they did.

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    1. Hi YTSL -- I found people around me were very quiet... no one really sang the songs or shouted out the slogans which I found a bit strange, but most people near me did stay till the end.

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