Beijing has nothing to celebrate for a lower June 4 vigil turnout

The candle lights still shine at the Victoria Park on June 4. More than 125,000 people attended the rally. Police said less than 30,000 turned out at the peak of the rally.

By Chris Yeung –

On its face, Beijing should feel happy with the drop of the turnout of the June 4 candle-light vigil at the Victoria Park on Saturday. Both figures given by the organisers and the police show fewer people attended the anniversary rally in commemorating the victims of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, compared with the figures in the past six years.

There is no denying the row between the Hong Kong Federation of Students and 12 university student unions and the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China, the vigil organiser, over the rally is an important factor for the lower turnout.

Seen from a deeper and broader perspective, the row reflects the growth of localism among young people in the city. Ask whether they hope the official verdict of the June 4 crackdown should be reversed, many of them may say yes. But they don’t think Hongkongers have a role in fighting for the building up of a democratic China, which is one of the four political demands of the Alliance.

Ironically, this is not so much because they have echoed calls by Beijing leaders for the “well water”, referring to Hong Kong, not to interfere with the “river water,” meaning the mainland. It is also not primarily because of a sense of pragmatism that there is practically little, or even nothing, Hongkongers can do to “build up a democratic China,” as some pragmatists have argued.

Importantly, it reflects a growing mixed feeling of resistance and separation, frustration and even hatred towards the motherland. To them, the June 4 commemoration represents some kind of unwanted identification and affiliation with the mainland. Rightly or wrongly, they feel adamant Hongkongers should only set their eyes on the democratic development of the city, not to bother about what happens in the mainland.


19 years after the handover, it could not be more ironic that the central authorities have not just failed to strive for the “return of the hearts” of Hongkongers to the mainland. The opposite is true. More people, in particularly, the younger generation, want separation, not closer ties, with the mainland.

If the drop in the turnout of this year’s June 4 candle-light vigil is seen as a success in frustrating the commemoration activities, it reflects a failure of Beijing’s policy towards Hong Kong at a broader and deeper level.

Speaking at a forum hosted by the Savantas Institute founded by Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee on Sunday, former central policy unit head Professor Lau Siu-kai said the mainland-Hong Kong relations was at its “most difficult time” since the handover.

‘Next 10 years critical in one country, two systems’

Another speaker Legislative Council President Tsang Yok-sing said how the mainland-Hong Kong relations develops in the next 10 years would be critical to the fate of the “one country, two systems” policy.

Ronny Tong Ka-wah, founder of the Path of Democracy, fears the policy of “one country, two systems” could not survive 2047 if Beijing and the pan-democrats do nothing to remedy the situation.


Superficially, Beijing has woken up to the brewing crisis in mainland-Hong Kong ties in recent years. Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the National People’s Congress, has moved to moderate the political atmosphere during his visit to the territory last month. In an unprecedented move, he met with four pan-democratic legislators and listened to their calls for not giving another term to Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying.

At long last, leaders of the ruling Communist Party might have realised the practical need of forging talks with the moderate democrats and the beauty of the candle lights at Victoria Park every June 4 evenings. True, they faced condemnation for their brutal acts in 1989. Still, it shows a send of identity and affinity with the motherland.

People have not forgotten because they still care.

The last thing Beijing wants is to have none from the pan-democrats they can talk to and a populace who don’t care about what happen in the mainland and feel that doesn’t matter to them.

Chris Yeung is founder and editor of the Voice of Hong Kong website. He is a veteran journalist formerly worked with the South China Morning Post and the Hong Kong Economic Journal. He writes on Greater China issues.

Photo: VOHK pictures






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