June 4, 2013

Singing in the rain

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Four years ago, I went to Victoria Park on the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre to commemorate the event at the annual vigil.  I've missed the annual gathering since then, but finally managed to return to the park tonight with a couple of friends.

I woke up to slightly wet weather, and the Hong Kong Observatory was forecasting showers for the rest of the week.  Sure enough, not long before the scheduled 8pm start to the vigil, the skies opened up and down came tears of heaven.

The traffic jam started inside the Causeway Bay station, but it wasn't too bad when I arrived.  As I exited the station towards the park, the streets were closed and filled with lots of people from all different political parties and organizations, each of their own agenda and message.  I couldn't hear anything because so many people were shouting through megaphones at the same time.  Lots of people were peddling T-shirts and soliciting donations.  Lots of banners everywhere… and I even saw someone holding a Republic of China flag.

The troops were gathering indoors, and Mr. Meow managed to come up with an umbrella for each of us so we wouldn't get drenched.  We managed to hit the park not too long after 8pm, led by the intrepid Mr. Meow as we went past the cops and organizers at the entrance, ensuring that we would be accounted for by the bean counters on both sides.  We also zigzagged past the crowd to make our way to about midway up the series of pitches.

It wasn't pissing rain, but if you were outdoors for a reasonable amount of time - like we were - it was enough to get you wet.  We were among tens of thousands of people who gathered, umbrella in one hand and likely a candle in the other, to make a statement.

Contrary to what they may have been teaching kids in China for the last 24 years - which, by the way, is kinda the same thing that the Chinese have been accusing the Japanese of doing in their education system regarding World War II - the Tiananmen massacre DID happen.  Hundreds - if not thousands - of lives were lost on that fateful day, while the lives of many others were irrevocably changed - most likely for the worse.

Thanks to the rain, the audio system wasn't really working well.  Most of the speakers were silent, and we relied on a few speakers that actually did work.  The screens were also dark thanks to the rain, so the broadcast of pre-recorded messages from various figures linked to 1989 were unable to be shown.  But all this did not faze the people in Hong Kong.  Besides chanting slogans like "平反六四,永不放棄!" - which loosely translates as "Vindicate June 4th, Never give up!" - people in the park were singing different songs.  Of course I didn't recognize any of those songs so wasn't able to sing along, but it was a moment of solidarity.

Towards the end of the gathering, as the organizers on stage were addressing the spirits of those who lost their lives in the massacre, we were asked to take down our umbrellas so that the world could see the sea of candle light.  We didn't mind getting wet anymore.  We wanted the world to know our resolve - to never forget about what happened that day.

Ever conscious of our environment, I decided not to light up one of the candle provided by the organizers.  Instead I had playfully downloaded a "candle app" for my iPhone, and I kept it "lit" under my umbrella...

Thanks to equipment failure as a result of the rain, the organizers decided to cut the event short at around 9pm.  We made our way out of the park so that my friends could grab dinner nearby.  It wasn't the best outcome for the evening, but I'm glad we were there.  I was also especially glad that Legolas Jr came, as he was only 2 when it happened.  We are spreading the word to the younger generation, and hope that they, too, will spread the word.

I will be back next year for the 25th anniversary.  Rain or (moon)shine.

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