June 4, 2014

Remembrance, 25 years on

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Twenty-five years ago today, I sat in my godparents' house halfway across the world, my eyes glued to the TV, and watched in horror as soldiers moved to crush the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square (天安門廣場).  The demonstrators, who were mostly university students, had demanded more freedom and political reform against corruption - all reasonable demands in a free and democratic society.  Well, the powers that be in Beijing decided that they would have none of it, and the result was a bloody massacre where hundreds, and most likely thousands, of lives were lost.  There is plenty of news footage and pictures recording this historic tragedy.

Tonight I met up with a few friends and went to Victoria Park for the candlelight vigil marketing the 25th anniversary of the massacre.  While I'm not originally from Hong Kong, it is now the place I call home, and I'm proud that the people of Hong Kong still come year-after-year to commemorate and remember the fallen.  This was my third time coming here, and having been here on the 20th anniversary, it was even more crucial for me to come tonight.

We entered the park around 7:45 p.m., shortly before the official start of events.  The main football fields were already pretty full, and there was still a big crowd being diverted around the perimeter of the park before they were allowed in.  I could see that the grass fields were getting pretty full, too.  I got detached from the gang, and decided to make my way near the stage at the front.  I wanted a better look at whatever footage they were gonna show us on the screens.

The MCs were asking for a show of hands to see how many times people have been here, or whether it was their first time attending the vigil.  There was of course the traditional series of songs about democracy and freedom.  After the official ceremony started, the MCs on stage took turns to recite the names of those whose lives were lost on that fateful evening 25 years ago.  I listened with a heavy heart, trying to imagine what it would have been like to have a family member whose name is among them.

The floodlights were turned off shortly after we started, to show the world the sea of candles at the park tonight.  At the vigil last year, we were asked to lower or put away our umbrellas in the rain, so as to reveal the candles we were all holding.  Once again, I chose not to light a wax candle but to use the candle app on my iPhone instead.

We stayed for a short while, long enough to pay our respects to the dead and bow to the replica of the Monument to the People's Heroes.  I have kept my promise to be here tonight, and never to forget what happened on June 4th, 1989.  And I never will.

But now it was time to eat...

P.S. I applaud mainstream American media outlets like CNN, Washington Post, NBC News for having the balls to call what happened 25 years ago for what it was - a massacre - while gutless media like the New York Times are now calling it a "crackdown" and the Economist is even worse... calling it "army action".


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