Young activists yesterday planned to turn their backs on Hong Kong’s commemoration of the bloody Tiananmen Square massacre amid growing calls in the territory for greater autonomy from China.
The vigil, which each year draws tens of thousands, has caused a widening rift in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp between those who believe the victims of the crackdown should be remembered and those who see the event’s message as increasingly irrelevant.
Semi-autonomous Hong Kong is the only location on Chinese soil to see a major commemoration to mark the military’s brutal crushing of pro-democracy protests in central Beijing in 1989, with residents gathering en masse in Victoria Park every year.
However, young activists from the new “localist” movement say Hong Kong should push for its own autonomy, even independence, rather than the democratization of China, which is part of the vigil’s main message.
Localism grew out of the failure of mass pro-democracy rallies in 2014 to gain concessions from China on political reform for Hong Kong.
A growing number of student groups have now broken away from the event, saying organizers have “lost touch” with Hong Kongers’ aspirations.
“For this generation, we want to put emphasis on fighting for democracy in Hong Kong,” Hong Kong University Student Union president Althea Suen (孫曉嵐) said.
Suen said that building a democratic China was “not our responsibility.”
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, a founding member of the alliance that organizes the vigil, said it would also not participate this year.
“The alliance has lost touch with Hong Kongers,” federation member Jocelyn Wong said. “The candlelight vigil has not made any progress in the past 27 years.”
Others were more acerbic in their criticism.
The Hong Kong Shue Yan University student union likened the organizers of the vigil as “pimps and bawds who run a brothel after they got raped themselves” on a Facebook post late last month.
The University of Hong Kong and the Chinese University of Hong Kong were yesterday to hold alternative forums at the same time as the vigil
The vigil’s organizer, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, said that, although it had not achieved its ultimate goal of getting Chinese authorities to admit to the crackdown, it had helped keep the memory alive.
Alliance member Richard Tsoi (蔡耀昌) said that if the vigil was axed, Tiananmen would be rendered a “non-issue” due to repression from Beijing.
The crackdown is branded a “counter-revolutionary rebellion” by Chinese authorities and many on the mainland remain unaware of it.
Tsoi hopes for a turnout of more than 100,000 people, similar to numbers in recent years.
The alliance said 135,000 people attended last year’s event.
Some student groups have backed the vigil, saying that it helped politicize a new generation and have organized forums to explain its impact to Hong Kongers.
A supportive petition was also signed by 300 representatives of various city groups, including legislators.
A large white banner emblazoned with “Never forget June 4, see you at Victoria Park,” was displayed on a rocky hillside on Friday morning, but was quickly removed by firefighters.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
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