Why The Tiananmen Vigil is Still Meaningful For Hong Kong

A commentary by Wang Dan
hongkong-protest-06032016.jpg Pro-democracy demonstrators hold yellow umbrellas, a symbol of the 2014 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong gather to denounce Beijing's influence over the territory, Oct. 1, 2015.

Since the 2014 pro-democracy Occupy Central movement in Hong Kong, the localist faction has seen its public support grow gradually, to the extent that it is becoming politically influential. I see this as a good thing, as something that the younger generation should be engaged in.

But I can't agree with its refusal to take part in the annual candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, for the following reasons:

1. There are many other ways of expressing the desire to cut oneself off from China, which is understandable in the face of Beijing's policy towards Hong Kong. Why choose the June 4 issue? There may be room for improvement in the Victoria Park vigils, but in attacking the Alliance in Support of the Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, how are they different from Beijing?

2. It is dubious for the localists in Hong Kong to claim that they want to work for democracy, while at the same time claiming that they don't care what happens in China. Freedom doesn't just mean freedom for oneself. One-party rule in China is the true enemy, and it's not just the enemy of Hong Kong people, but of the whole of civilized society.

3. Hong Kong should learn from Taiwan's experience, where people have long fought for their own identity and independence, regarding democracy in China as someone else's problem. But the new generation of Taiwan independence activists, the Sunflower Movement, were happy to join in commemoration of June 4 in Taiwan. It's worth looking at why they changed their minds.

4. To some extent, I see the growing desire among Hong Kong people to cut themselves off from the democracy movement in China as the inevitable result of historical processes. I can understand why some students at the University of Hong Kong say openly that the June 4 anniversary commemorations are "meaningless." But I also believe that the localist movement will continue to evolve and come up with its own ideas, and I would remind them that the more rational and thought-out its ideas, the more followers it will attract.

Commemorating June 4, 1989 isn't only meaningful to people who support the pro-democracy movement in China. It carries meaning for the localists too, because it places talk of Hong Kong's democratic development in a wider context, and gives it a stronger foundation.

Wang Dan, a former leader of the 1989 pro-democracy movement on Tiananmen Square, lectures on the history of the People's Republic of China at Taiwan's National Tsing Hua University.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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