A Plea for the June 4th Candlelight Memorial
(Ming Pao via InMediaHK) Please keep a bit of personal space for the candlelight memorial. By Choi Chi-keung. June 16, 2006.
After this affair, how many Administrative Officers and how many solo mainland Chinese travelers will dare to attend the June 4th candlelight assembly next year? Do you realize that what you are doing right now is objectively driving away these people? That you are objectively aiding the Communist Party?
If there are no more dramatic developments, the storm of whether Donald Tsang attended the "Democratic Sounds of Music for China" should be over and done with.
I actually wrote this essay ten days ago. At the time, I struggled inside for a long time. I had something to say, but I felt that in an environment where everyone's brain is inflamed and their eyes are blood-shot, the publication of this essay would be "smeared" and swept into the political maelstrom. So at the last moment, I substituted this essay with another one in my regular column. But now that things have cooled down and everyone is more calm, I hope that I can talk sensibly with everyone.
As to who is telling the truth and who is lying in this affair, I regret that I have no basis to make any judgment. But it hurts me immensely that when the incident reached the climax, some newspaper was checking off the names of senior officials: Wong Yan-lung, Denise Yue, Ambrose Lee, Sarah Liao, York Chow and others, and demanding them to come clean about whether they were present at the scene on that day. Some opinion leaders even attempted to start a "people's campaign to find the guilty ones" to locate witnesses and photographs as "proof."
I asked a reporter friend whether he knew what he was doing. He said reluctantly: "I have no choice."
At the time, I felt very bad about this. This is really like the type of political campaign in which "everyone must make of an account of themselves before they are allowed to pass (人人交代，人人才可過關)" in mainland China. The difference is that if this had happened in mainland China, everybody would have regarded it as 'white terror.' But since it happened in today's Hong Kong under the impetus of the media's populist logic, it is rendering justice.
Frankly speaking, over all these years, I have been to many June 4th candlelight assemblies and I have seen Administrative Officers at Victoria Park. But each time, I acted as if I saw nothing and I pretended that nothing ever happened. I would not be stupid enough to approach them and say hello, because I feel that this was the best way to pay respect to them for their goodness and courage.
For the friends who have attended the evening assemblies, they may observe that there is now putonghua interpretation during the proceedings. Obviously, this is done for the sake of the Chinese compatriots who have come here as solo travelers. I don't know how many of them are ordinary citizens? or cadres? or business VIP's? or how many of them will become important people some day? But if they know that they will not be shielded and that they may be exposed (擺上枱=laid out on the table) some day, then how can they not quiver in their hearts?
After this occasion, how many Administrative Officers and mainland Chinese solo travelers will have the guts to attend the candlelight assembly in the future? Do you realize that what you just did has objectively chased away these people? and objectively aided the Communist Party?
Several years ago, when the police used video cameras to record demonstrators, people were infuriated and they were worried that this would be used for retaliation against them in the future. But today, when the media initiated a "people's campaign to find the guilty ones," everybody was rearing to go at it.
Maybe you argue that they are officials whereas we are citizens, and therefore there is a difference. But I believe that back then as well as today, they go to the June 4th meeting for one reason only -- at that moment, the person has put aside his status as an official as well as all political calculations and considerations. Instead, he went with the conscience of a Chinese person and return to the fundamentals out of humanitarian concerns. He was looking to fulfill a "person"'s responsibilities and nature.
I do not believe that anyone should be punished as a result. Otherwise, political people will become more hypocritical and calculating.
So why can't we set aside a certain space to permit them to become an ordinary person for one moment in their lives in which they can have the humanitarian concerns and values of an ordinary person?
Many years ago, there was the notion that as long as people still have the belief, then it does not matter whether they go to Victoria Park or not. As long as they lift a lit candle in their own homes and stand in front of the window, it is a form of commemoration without any formalism. Many years later, I find that this to be overstated. Human nature is weak. If everybody really did that, then there would not be many people at the memorial four or five years later. On the contrary, seventeen years later, there are still several tens of thousand people who persist because these people support each other in Victoria Park and gather strength from the group. I believe that Ding Zilin and other Tiananmen mothers see the continuous presence of several tens of thousands of people every year at Victoria Park as an important force that has supported them over these seventeen years.
Therefore, I have been thankful to the Alliance to Support Democratic Movements in China over all these years. I am grateful that they have persisted in organizing the June 4th candlelight assemblies, especially the group of nameless and selfless volunteers.
Everybody hopes that 18 years later, 19 years later, 20 years later after the June 4th incident, the candlelight assembly will continue as long as vindication has not occurred. I hope even more that I would continue to march with the several tens of thousand friends who were at Victoria Park for the last seventeen years. I would not want to lose a single one of them. So, can we leave them a little of personal space for their commemoration and candles?
I believe that history is ultimately beautiful and we will see the day when June 4th is vindicated.
(Postscript: I have thought about publishing this essay under a pseudonym so as to spare my ears from the criticisms. But at the last moment, I changed my mind. Over all these years, I always respect the Alliance and I respect Szeto Wah. In the end, I chose the most open and proper approach.)