Sunday, 4 June 2017

28 Years On

Some 110,000 people turned out tonight in Victoria Park
A few days ago the weather forecast for Sunday didn't look good for the 28th candlelight vigil for June 4 -- the Hong Kong Observatory said there would be heavy rain.

While it was very humid over the weekend, it didn't pour -- in fact today the clouds cleared and we saw bits of blue skies.

Thank goodness the weather cooperated, but that didn't persuade thousands of other people to show up to Victoria Park this evening.

The crowd looked promising before the event started
Organizers say 110,000 people attended, making it the lowest turnout since 2008, and it is the second year in a row that the Hong Kong Federation of Students did not participate.

Nevertheless we are glad we came to show Beijing and the world we still remember, 28 years on.

At 7pm a few of us gathered to head to Victoria Park and there were already a number of people heading in the same direction, which looked promising.

The usual political groups were out in force along the road towards Victoria Park, loudly soliciting donations. Leung Kwok-hung or "Long Hair" was the loudest, demanding people donate to the collection boxes on the right. He said "donate" and "on the right" so fast and loud he sounded like a slot machine that hit the jackpot.

Everyone was out in force, including Lee Cheuk-yan, who isn't a lawmaker anymore, as well as Emily Lau Wai-hing. Guess you need to trot out the old guard for the mostly older demographic at the candlelight vigil.

The Goddess of Democracy is a big draw
However, organizers tried very hard to make it look like they were still relevant to young people, or that students still cared about what happened before they were born.

They practically hosted the event, leading everyone in singing (the same) songs, shouting slogans and even talking to high school students on stage about why it was important to know about June 4.

But perhaps most compelling was Lam Yiu-keung, who witnessed the massacre on June 4. He was there to support the students when things got very ugly. He remembers trying to carry someone, but when they tried to prop him up, blood was gushing out of him like a river. It took six or seven people to carry this person.

Then four or five of the Chinese students surrounded him as if to protect him and said that as a Hong Kong person, he had to go back and tell everyone what had happened.

Meanwhile one of the Tiananemen Mothers Ge Guirong, 83, said she spent the last 28 years living in guilt for not stopping her son, Du Guanxue from leaving home that night, and questioned why the government would not admit wrong and bear the responsibility of its actions. She also thanked Hong Kong people for remembering what happened.

This year was marked with the curious trip of a bottle of liquor that has a label that commemorates June 4 and was taken out of China and traveled to several countries before arriving in Hong Kong.

Remembering the Tiananmen Mothers and their cause
Apparently a sympathetic official was able to take the bottle out of the country without detection and then passed it to democracy activists in Europe and the liquor was then carried to a few places before its final destination here.

While we didn't see the actual bottle on stage, the people who made the liquor were arrested last May, and their family members gave verbal testimonies that we heard.

It's sad that this was the lowest turnout in nine years, and silly of the students not to realize there is strength in numbers, particularly for this vigil. It is the same thing every year, that's true, but it's just one day to remember the possibly thousands of people -- not just students, but ordinary people of all ages -- who died senselessly. Why can't we all stop for a few hours to pay tribute to them?

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