Two Incidents at the Hong Kong Protest March

In discussing the anti-Japanese marches, it is often asserted (especially by Hong Kong people) that the culture of demonstration is superior in Hong Kong.  There would never be the kind of rock throwing, toppling over of cars and smashing of shops and restaurants that were seen in Shanghai and elsewhere on mainland China.  On Sunday, it was Hong Kong's turn to hold a demonstration.  The organizers originally predicted a turnout of 500.  In the end, the police gave an estimate of 5,000 while the organizers claimed 12,000.  Indeed, there would be no rock throwing, car-toppling or shop-smashing.  The marchers went past the big Japanese stores such as Sogo without incident, because they recognized that their gripe was not with the citizens or properties, but with the Japanese government and the Japanese school history textbooks.

But there were two minor incidents of a different kind.  They are reported below:

Incident #1: From a letter published in the comments of an InMediaHK post:

We are four citizens who participated the anti-Japanese march today.  We demand the Japanese government to treat its invasion of China properly and at the same time we demand the Chinese Communist government to treat our own national history properly.  But before the march began today, we were assaulted by other dissenting citizens.  We are deeply angered by this.

Today at 3pm, the four of us brought along our own paper placard and flyers to the assembly point in Victoria Park.  We hope to express our opinions about the anti-Japanese issue and the proper treatment of history.  Our placard read: "The history of invading China must not be revised; the truth about June 4th must not be distorted."  We also intend to distribute related flyers during the march.

We arrived and we stood therefore without shouting any slogans.  Within one minute, someone proceeded to destroy our placards.  There were more than 50 people surrounding us, even as two female police officers attempted to mediate.  But the crowd did not stop.  They cursed us out with foul language, and then they shoved us.  It was chaotic.  More police officers arrived to assist us.  In the melee, people were pulling our hair and scratching us with their hands and my glasses were broken.  One of the placards was torn up, and its bamboo stick was snapped.  We left the scene of the demonstration under police escort, all the while being cursed.  Some of the people attempted to break the police line to snatch away our flyers.

Apart from separating us from those who assaulted us, the police did not take any further action against those who deployed violence.  Instead, the police issued a verbal warning to us, and said that we may have violated Public Safety Regulation #17B about public order.  If disorder broke out later in Victoria Park as a result of our actions, the police may seek to have us prosecuted.  We were extremely dissatisfied with the manner in which the police handled this matter.  It was equivalent to approving violent actions to suppress our freedom of speech.

Incident #2: 

(The Standard)  Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China chairman Szeto Wah was booed at SAR Government Headquarters when he mentioned Tiananmen Square.  "In 1989 a protester in Beijing carried a banner saying the Nanjing Massacre was Japanese killing the Chinese, but June 4 was Chinese killing Chinese,'' he said.  "Regardless of where they are from, no one should be allowed to rewrite history," Szeto said.

(Sing Tao via Yahoo! News)  When Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China chairman Szeto Wah got invited to speak on the podium, some in the crowd booed.  He declared: "The Japanese government revised its history, and refuse to rectify its past crimes and misdeeds.  This is a mistake on top of another mistake."  Then he reflecetd: "This incident reminds me of the day after June 4, 1989, when I went past a bookstore and saw a banner that said ..."  Before he finished, some in the crowd yelled: "We are here today to protest against the Japanese!"  Others chanted "Down with Japan! Down with Japan! Down with Japan!" to get Szeto Wah off the podium.  In the end, the organizers sent someone out to lead other anti-Japanese slogans and calmed the people down.

(Ming Pao via Yahoo! News)  When Szeto Wah got on the podium and mentioned "June 1989" and "Tienanmen Square", some people began to yell "We are here today to protest against the Japanese!"  Others chanted "Down with Japan! Down with Japan! Down with Japan!" while booing him.  Legislator Leung "Long Hair" Kwok-hung was unhappy with the reaction of the marchers and said: "Why can't he mention June 4 during an anti-Japan protest?  If they are patriotic, they can have their a march of their own."  Szeto Wah added afterwards: "Nobody should revise or conceal history ... can some history be amended or hidden? ... If I am a speaker, I can say that ... I only spoke one sentence about June 4, and the rest was about Japan.  I did not try to take over the meeting."  He pointed out that when Japan invaded China, it was the Japanese killing the Chinese, but "in the June 4 incident, it was the Chinese kiling the Chinese.  Both events are being revised, so why can't that be mentioned?  There are all types of people in the march, so it is normal to have different sorts of opinions."

(Apple Daily via InMediaHK) Statement by Szeto Wah

On April 17, the Protect Diaoyutai Committee and the Educational Assocation organized an anti-Japanese demonstration march.  The final destination of the group was at government house where the effigies of Junichiro Koizumi were burned.  I was the last speaker, as arranged by Protect Diaoyutai Committee chairman Ho Wah.  As I go to the end of my speech, some people in the audience booed.  I will not publish my entire speech in the following:

Why do some people falsify history?  Because an accurate history captures the truth of the matter.  Why are they afraid of the truth of the matter?  Because the truth of the matter exposes their criminal acts.  Why are they afraid that their criminal acts be exposed?  Because they have not regretted, and they are continuing to commit new crimes.  These new criminal acts will afflict the next generation, the one after that, the one after the one after that, and so on.  Therefore, for the next generation, the one after that and the one after the one after tha, we must oppose the falsification of history.  We must let the people know the truth and rise up to stop these new crimes!

This year is the sixtieth year of the victory in the war of resistance against Japan.  Many people have forgotten or never knew about the pains and sorrow of our people.  After the return of Hong Kong to China, there is an emphasis on patriotic education.  I believe that the most important aspect of patriotic education is to learn about Chinese history and the pains and sorrows of the Chinese people.  From the past sorrows, we derive our self-respect to love our compatriots.  This is much important than knowing how many Olympic gold medals were won by China.

Recently, the mainland compatriots held the largest anti-Japanese demonstrations since the 1989 democracy movement.  We hope the central government will not use empty words for the people's dignity and feelings; they must hold the strongest, sternest and most determined position and they must use the veto power to prevent Japan from becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council.  Otherwise, they would have betrayed the people of China and Asia.

On June 5, 1989, the day after the June 4 incident, I saw the following large-character wall poster outside the Commercial Press in Central: "The history of invasion of China must not be falsified, and the truth about June 4 must not be distorted; at Tienanmen Square in Beijing, Chinese people were killing Chinese people."  If we oppose the accuracy of Japan's history of its invasion of China, we should also oppose the central government's concealment of the truth about June 4!

On the next morning, I learned that prior to the beginning of the march, four members of the Student Union wearing "Never forget June 4" t-shirts were holding "The history of the invasion of China must not be falsified and the truth about June 4 must not be distorted" placards were insulted and assaulted by several dozenes of men, and their placards were ripped up.  This may me realize who were the people who booed me.  At the gatherings and marches of the democrats, nothing like this has ever happened.  Some people have probably never attended any activity, gathering or marches of Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China.  What kind of people are they?  Do they believe that the Chinese people can use tanks and machines to massacre their own compatriots?  Are they Chinese?

Any kind of history must not be falsified by anyone!

Why were some members of the crowd hostile?  The June 4 issue has been around for almost 16 years and vindication in the form of an official apology is nowhere in sight.  The matter is losing traction on mainland China (see, for example, Democracy Wall, Beijing University, 2005) where the pressure for change must occur.  The crowd reaction on Sunday can be predicted by the comment in this previous post Masters of History:

Rubbish!  Even if the Chinese Communists tell lies all the time, what is wrong about wanting to protect the integrity of China?  What kind of logic is it to say that as long as the June 4 incident is not vindicated, then the Chinese must permit the Japanese to occupy our territory and steal our resources?  To exaggerate somewhat, if China and Japan should go to war tomorrow while the Chinese Communists have not yet apologized for June 4, are we supposed to turn our guns around to help the Japanese ghouls?  Stupid!

Of course, that was not the intent of either the four citizens or Szeto Wah.  They are not arguing for prioritizing June 4 over the Japanese issue; rather, they are asking for simultaneous consideration of two similar issues.  However, this is unfortunately coming across as an impediment to another matter of importance and urgency, so that resentment increases every time that June 4 is brought up.