Hong Kong prevents mass gatherings, but many gather for church services to remember pro-democracy demonstrators.
Although many protestors who braved the streets of Hong Kong to mark the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre were arrested, and thousands of Hong Kongers found inventive ways to demonstrate their solidarity without breaking the law, hundreds of people gathered in churches legally to remember the dead on Friday.
June 4, 2021, was the second year in which Hong Kong authorities forbid a public candlelight vigil for the victims of the 1989 crackdown in Beijing. They cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but it was apparent that Beijing’s heavier hand in the former British colony is now calling the shots. The People’s Republic of China has never allowed a memorial for the Tiananmen Square incident, in which Chinese military killed peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators by the hundreds.
On Friday, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Hong Kong, led hundreds in prayer at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in the Hang Hau section of Hong Kong, one of seven churches the Diocese of Hong Kong designated for requiem Masses.
Porson Chan, who works for the Justice and Peace Commission of the Diocese of Hong Kong, told Aleteia that all the Masses were peaceful events, but that at two parishes, police wanted to enter the church and talk with a person in charge.
“One of the churches rejected the request; at another church, the parish priest talked to the police,” he said. “The helpers from these churches reported to me that the police wanted to limit the number of capacity of the church.”
Chan said the churches were not exceeding the capacity limits imposed by COVID-19 protocols. He added that “a number of police” surrounded the church where Cardinal Zen offered Mass, though they did not interfere with the service.
The cardinal lamented that authorities still failed to listen to people’s voices after decades, the South China Morning Post reported.
“The tragedy of June 4 will not leave us gradually,” the cardinal said. “It may re-emerge … if the authorities still believe they can kill patriotic young people for the so-called common good.”
Zen, a Salesian priest who was not yet a bishop in 1989, said that those who died 32 years ago sacrificed their lives “for our democracy, our freedom.”
“What they were asking for was a clean government (anti-corruption) and what they wanted was a truly strong country, but unfortunately they had to leave the world with the imprint of rioters,” the cardinal said, according to a report at Asia News.
Yet, “their sacrifice is for us,” he said, “and we embrace their hopes of failure: a just and peaceful society, a regime respected by the people, and a strong country respected by the world.”
Zen added that “our prayer is also for the Lord to lead the rulers to walk on the path of justice and peace.”
At another church, St. Francis in Kowloon, Hong Kong Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha presided at a memorial Mass. In his homily, Bishop Ha said that when Jesus’ disciples wavered, Jesus told them that the greatest difficulty in life is the challenge of faith.”