Hong Kong salutes while Beijing censors

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Hong Kong
  • Updated: Jun 04, 2014 01:23 IST

On Sunday, couple of thousand people stepped out in the afternoon heat to take part in a march to mark 25 years of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. It is expected to be just a precursor to the vigil organised for June 4; last year more than 150000 attended the vigil last year.

“Hong Kong has a protest culture, even mass protests,” William Nee, China researcher with rights body, Amnesty International, said.

Over the last weekend, a two-day seminar titled “June 4 25th Anniversary International Conference” had academics and activists discuss wide-ranging issues related to the crackdown and on broader topics like the situation civil rights on the Mainland.

Under the “one country, two systems”, Hong Kong enjoys a greater degree of freedom to debate, discuss issues and even criticise government decisions. That is the reason residents of Hong Kong have the freedom to discuss the June 4 crackdown openly at public forum.

“There are three fundamental demands regarding the crackdown from the government: the truth, accountability and compensation,” Shiwei Ye, senior programme officer at Human Rights in China, an NGO based in Hong Kong and New York, said.

People are still fighting the same problems 25 years later, Shiwei said, adding that the government then labelled it a “counter-revolutionary riot” and quelled it in the name of social stability.

“The protesters then were demanding the same things activists talk about now: anti-corruption, more political and judicial reforms,” Chan Ka Wai, executive director of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group said.

Activists said it was important to inform the younger generation about the crackdown so that the fight for justice could be carried on. “Or, the government will probably just ride it out,” Nee said.

For one, the Tiananmen Mothers, a group comprising parents of those killed in the protests, has been at the forefront in the demand for justice for the victims. But at least 28 members of the group have passed away and many of the remaining are over 70 and 80 years old. So, Shiwei said it is very important that younger generations have access to information about the crackdown.

As Perry Link, Professor Emeritus of East Asian Studies, Princeton University, said, “in this kind of traditional Chinese political culture, the leader cannot admit error. It shatters the claim to absolute moral correctness that undergirds the entire system. The reasons for not looking squarely at June Fourth, the Great Famine, or the Cultural Revolution violence — and for continuing to use Mao as the country’s symbol — all stem from this… They sense deep down that to admit error would invite collapse of their system.”

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