It’s that time of the year again.
No, it’s the anniversary of the June Fourth Tiananmen Massacre in Hong Kong, and leading up to this quasi-religious festival, is the three year running argument for and against the continuation of the Candlelight Vigil in Victoria Park, Causeway Bay.
For those unaware of this argument, it began in 2013 when Hong Kong localism first exploded onto the political scene in Hong Kong. The movement had already been simmering for a while in the undercurrents between 2008 and 2012, where Hong Kong’s younger generations were increasingly rejecting the idea that they are chinese, identifying themselves purely as Hong Kongers. It had come fully to the fore of political debate amongst those in the so called democratic camp, through the exchanging volleys of criticisms and condemnations between the supporters and protesters.
In the argument’s development up until now, those who reject the vigil have the following criticisms and condemnations:
- The Massacre happened in china, far away from Hong Kong, in a movement outside of Hong Kong, at a time when most Hong Kongers now were only babes or were not even born. The Vigil has little relevance or significance to Hong Kongers this day and age, as the supplications are calling for democracy in china, which Hong Kongers are powerless to affect any changes to the situation other than making a symbolic gesture.
- The Candlelight Vigil is part of the pan-sina worldview of the older generations, a view that is now at odds with the ground-gaining Hong Kong localist movement, who are openly calling for secession and independence from china. This demand comes as a response to the mass chinese incursions into Hong Kong society, severely altering the linguistic and cultural makeup; eroding its traditional values on rule of law, enterprise, integrity, freedoms and rights; and making themselves masters over Hong Kongers.
- The Vigil is nothing more than the Democratic Party’s political campaigning platform for introducing its up-coming politicians, and a fund-raiser gathering for the faithful. The former professor Horace Chin Wan in 2013 once remarked that the Vigil was like an insidious altar luring Hong Kongers into the cult of patriotism for a country that is out to destroy the sanctity of Hong Kong.
The Vigil creates the illusion that Hong Kongers are doing something for democratic advances in china and in Hong Kong, when in reality nothing had been done, other than being a cheerleader to the chinese to do the dirty work in bringing down the chinese communist party for Hong Kongers.
The pan-democrats who support the Vigil are essentially placing china’s fight for democracy above Hong Kong’s fight for its own, saying that “if china doesn’t have democracy, neither should Hong Kong”. Critics of the Vigil almost pointed out that the figures of the Vigil are also the ones who side with the chinese, when it comes to a Hong Konger-chinese conflict, putting the greed of the chinese above the natural rights of Hong Kongers in their own city-state.
What the majority of protesters against the Vigil proposed was that Remembrance for June Fourth should not be monopolized by any one organisation, nor should the meaning of the Remembrance be ordained and defined by any sole group, and Hong Kongers should be the priority when it comes to fighting for freedoms and rights in Hong Kong, and not the chinese who are increasingly at odds with Hong Kong values and society. Moreover, the protesters reassessed the meaning of June Fourth Remembrance with relevance to Hong Kongers, pointing out that the power that ordered the mass murder of students protesting is the same power that is controlling Hong Kong and slowly killing the city, if not saying it has no meaning to Hong Kongers outright. Civic Passion, a pro-democracy localist party founded in 2012, instead uses the Tiananmen Massacre as the foundation of Hong Kong’s need for independence from china.
For the pro-Vigil camp, they hit back with slanders and character assassinations, often condemning the protesters as cold-hearted fascists, who cannot see beyond their own needs and wants. Their insistence is that the annual photo of the sea of candlelight in Victoria Park brings encouragement to the chinese fighting for their democracy, but cannot produce any evidence of their work in advancing their cause. In 2014, they ridiculed the June Fourth gathering organised by Civic Passion, with a localist flavour that speaks meaning into the Remembrance for Hong Kongers, saying that it would be lucky if it had 200 people attending. Instead, more than 2000 attended the brief gathering, and as it disbanded, the crowd transformed into an occupation of Canton Road, with everyone shouting “down with the chinese communist party” and “down with the SAR regime” as they marched down the street all the way to the Jordan District, putting the SAR police into a frantic confusion. It was the precursor to the Anti-Locust march, the Occupation of Mongkok during the Umbrella Revolution, and the Reclaim Marches held in northern districts under heavy attack from chinese smugglers of Hong Kong’s domestic goods back to china.
For this year, the student unions of Hong Kong’s universities have decided to hold a forum discussing June Fourth, instead of joining the Vigil as they had traditionally. Even the Federation of Hong Kong’s Student Unions, which incurred a massive blow when around half of its member universities withdrew from the Federation by referendum, decided that they will not attend the Vigil this year, choosing to remember June Fourth on their own. The Support for chinese democracy committee and its supporters lambasted the students, condemning them as sidetracking from the meaning of the Vigil, with some calling the student union leaders disgusting. HK Peanut, a pseudo-online media founded by the League of Social Democrats Party, even slandered Althea Suen, President of the Student Union for Hong Kong University, turning her speech against the Vigil into rhetoric against putting the “Dark Corner Seven” to justice, the seven cops who brutally assaulted Ken Tsang during the Umbrella Revolution.