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Hong Kong Catholics mark 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square massacre

Eglises d'Asie

John Burger - published on 06/05/19

Diocese of Hong Kong official gave space to journalists returning from Beijing to report on bloodshed

In a rare public recognition of the events of June 4, 1989, government of the People’s Republic of China has defended the crackdown on Tiananmen Square protests. During a regional security forum, the Minister of Defense, Gen. Wei Fenghe said Sunday that stopping the “turbulence” was the “correct” policy for Beijing, according to Asia News.

But in an exhibition mounted by Catholic in Hong Kong, victims shared accounts of brutal treatment they endured 30 years ago.

Independent bodies estimate that anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people were killed in Beijing on the night of June 3-4, 1989, as tanks and troops moved in to clear Tiananmen Square of protestors.

Asia News noted that as the anniversary approaches each year, Chinese authorities deploy a “network of automated algorithms,” and “tens of thousands of officials purge the web of any reference to the massacre.”

“This is why Gen. Wei Fenghe’s words at the “18th Asia Security Summit” in Singapore (May 31st – June 2nd) represents an exceptional rarity,” the website said. “After a wide-ranging speech on trade and security, Gen. Wei Fenghe was questioned about Tiananmen by a member of the public. The minister asked why people continue to say that China has not handled the events correctly.

“That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence, which is a correct policy,” he said. The senior official then said that “the past 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” adding that due to the government’s action at that juncture “the country has enjoyed stability and development.”

In Hong Kong, which was under the British Crown in 1989, and has been part of the People’s Republic of China since 1997, people have been freer to discuss the June 4 incident and commemorate it each year. This year, Catholic organizers in Hong Kong mounted an exhibition from May 18-26 in to show that the Church supported the pro-democracy movement,” UCANews reported.

Speaking at a presentation during the exhibition, Biddy Kwok, chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, remembered following the news from Beijing, beginning in April 1989. Students in the Chinese capital began to turn out to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party and a reformer. The students also began publicly criticizing government corruption. Gathering in Tiananmen Square, they called for a dialogue with the government in a bid to achieve democratic reforms, UCAN noted.

Kwok recalls now that the ruling Communist Party hierarchy had broken her heart by imposing martial law on May 20, the day after Zhao Ziyang, Hu’s successor, visited students on hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. The announcement prompted thousands of Hong Kong people to support the protesting students in Beijing despite stormy weather, Kwok recalled as her eyes were brimmed with tears. “Once I stepped out from home to join the protest, my life changed,” she said, adding that other Catholic parishioners came onto the streets. “At that moment, even though I was all wet under the rain, I still felt warm because I realized that there were companions who had the same faith as me,” Kwok said of that time.

Father Louis Ha, who was the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office director in 1989, recalled that there were prayer meetings and Masses to support the democracy movement. Father Ha offered space to journalists returning from Beijing to compile reports and edit film footage. That included editing a film record of the massacre that occurred on June 4.

The priest added that because of such assistance being given, Hong Kong citizens knew that the Church was working for justice and peace. Father Ha also recalled that Cardinal Joseph Wu, the former bishop of Hong Kong, regarded the student movement as peacefully and rationally seeking democratic reforms as well as an end to corruption.

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