June 4th or Lok Sei in Cantonese, means only one thing to those who know what happened 30 years ago today in Tiananmen Square, in what was then Peking. For millions of Chinese people in the mainland today , it is just another day because of vigorous government censorship but for millions more it is a day when they hope answers will finally come and they will have vindication.
I remember it being on the evening news. Whenever you heard Kate Adie’s voice, you knew it was something to pay attention to. She had been reporting for a while on the student protests but when, on the evening of June 3rd she reported about shots being fired and chaos erupting, I sat up and listened. I was getting married in July of that year and I’d been trying to take note of special events that were happening. I never envisaged this would be one of them.
“Tell the World What is Happening”
Michael Burke was presenting the BBC news and he interviewed Kate Adie, the emotion in her voice says it all.
The view from Hong Kong
My family and I lived in Hong Kong for twelve years. I’m ashamed to say that only when we were leaving did I realise I’d never attended the vigil so in 2013, I donned my rainmac and joined the crowds.
Old and young, Chinese and non-Chinese, first-timers and annual supporters alike marched through the summer rain and converged on Victoria Square in Causeway Bay.
30 years on, what do people who were there think?
What’s the future?
In 1997, Hong Kong became a Special Administrative Region of China after the handover from Britain. Hong Kong was promised ‘One Country, Two Systems’ but the freedoms that exist in Hong Kong today are being eroded and censorship is happening in a very real and obvious way. I’m not a journalist or an intellectual, so I cannot write accurately about these changes, but they are real. The most recent confrontation with the mainland has been about the propsed extradition laws that would allow people to be sent to the mainland for trial. Here’s what Reuters has to say. Today of all days, when people of Hong Kong march and remember the June 4th massacre, Chief Executive, Carrie Lam says “how can I retract this important piece of work because of criticism, including ad hominem criticism.” A friend who is at the vigil as I write this blog says “I would not be surprised if the protest is forbidden in HK in 10 years’ time. Lest we forget.”
Want to see how it went in Hong Kong this year?
The South China Morning Post is the go-to newspaper in the English language in Hong Kong but it too is subject to censorship. Recently a new paper has spring up, Hong Kong Free Press. Click here to see how they are reporting today’s events.
In October of this year, the world will mark 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. How people in China and Chinese people all over the world must hope that one day, they too will have the freedom to decide their own destiny. Economic freedom that has happened in China over the last 30 years must be followed by political reform. When that does happen, we must all fight to keep it. Today in the UK, people are marching against Donald Trump as he makes a state visit to the United Kingdom. It is one thing to honour the office of President of the United States, it is another when that person dishonours his own citizens and is complicent in taking away their freedoms and rights. Freedom has to be fought for over and over again and never taken for granted.