Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Je me souviens

Two decades have passed. Times have changed. For not a single moment though have I ever forgotten what happened thousands of miles away to the north that early morning.

I still remember clearly how I had watched the television with my brother for hours into and after midnight, finding it hard to take our eyes off the screen. Soon we found ourselves swearing as maliciously as we could when tears ran down our cheeks, flushed in anger, anguish and disbelief.

We were only teenagers at that time. I was 16 and my brother 14. We didn't know what brought to the pro-democracy protests to such a bloody and tragic end, if any reason ever existed. For us, it was a hard-learnt lesson of dirty politics and how worthy causes can end up with frustration and devastation of hope.

Long before the bloodshed, I remember how anxious and restless I had become when the local press was flooded with all sorts of news from the north. My emotions had been so much stirred like the roaring waves in a rough sea that I was desperate to show my support for the worthy cause. Although my mother forbade me from taking to the streets on that Sunday when typhoon signal No. 8 was hoisted, and wearing a piece of black strip on my arm on the first day of school after the incident, I managed to donate a generous sum of HK$100, all I received for two weeks. I also bought a pink T-shirt made by Giordano, then owned by the philistine maverick Jimmy Lai, with the word "Freedom" in five languages on it.

I am not boasting of my excellent memory. I am writing these for the records to show my contempt and disgust for those who tried to smear colours of gold in a feeble attempt to wipe out or cover up the bloody red. Late may it seem, but better than never.

Now that the teenager has grown up to become a middle-aged woman, I could understand where the patriarchs who made such a blunder came from, although I would never be able to agree with them whatsoever. I shall never forget how grave a mistake it was a human being could ever have made in his life. Of course it remains a mystery as whether the decision came from any individual or a group compromise between the hawks and the pigeons. But it doesn't really matter now. A mistake is a mistake and it shall be remembered in history - notwithstanding any formal apology, whenever it may be given.

Last night when the news reported that Chai Ling, one of the student leaders who later fled the United States, issued a statement urging the incumbent Chinese leadership to show courage by reversing its long-standing but ridiculous verdict of the incident, I couldn't help having mixed feelings. Surely it would be a gesture of courage if the incumbent leaders did so, but do we really need some sort of "official" justice from the authorities? I don't think so. Justice has been done since the first day of the protest, when students put a wreath in memory of late premier Hu Yaobang at Tiananmen Square. Every witness on the spot or through the media has granted the victims and protesters justice. We don't need to call for justice, as it is already in place. What we need is just a formal apology, a demonstration of courage, regret and remorse in admitting a terribly grave and irreversible mistake; and, more importantly, a firm and solemn commitment not to repeat the blunder again.

Disappointingly, the miraculous economic and cultural emergence that reminds many of us of China's glorious past in imperial times has failed to build up the courage and senses among the national leaders to shrug off the burden that has been haunting them for 20 years. Everything we see today seems to indicate that they will continue to be haunted for a certain period of time. While we must not deny the progress made in cultural and social aspects, those baby steps are far from satisfactory, especially when we know how much integrity and intelligence our forefathers had shown throughout the millennia. I know our potential and we could have done even better if we were bolder.

Having said that, I must say I am equally sick, if more, of the so-called commemorative activities organised in Hong Kong throughout the years. Sensible people would see how some of the so-called pro-democracy activists have been taking advantage of the genuine goodwill of fellow citizens for their own interests. To achieve this, they also choose to deify individuals and victims at their discretion so that they can build the platform for opposition for the sake of opposition. Surely many armless students, workers and civilians died, but how can we label them as martyrs so hastily? Why can't we just treat them as poor souls who died without any cause? This is why I never participate in any of the weekend marches or candlelight vigils at Victoria Park throughout the years. And I'm not going to do so tomorrow either. Not that I forget, or choose to forget as someone does, but I'd rather protect myself from abuse and keep away from dirty tricks I can tell. I also want to stay away from peers and younger generations who see the 20th anniversary commemorative vigil as a fashionable occasion to see and to be seen.

Two decades have passed. Times have changed. And I still remember.

Je me souviens.

4 comments:

  1. Surely many armless students, workers and civilians died, but how can we label them as martyrs so hastily?

    hihi, may i know why should these many a poor souls not stayed in their comfy, or not so comfy home in the middle of the night when the city was under a curfew and eventually got themselves killed?

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  2. Yes, many of them volunteered to show their support, but the bloodshed and violence didn't just happen in the dark. There were others who might have lost their lives in daylight on their way to do something else.

    My sympathy and thoughts are always with them, you can be assured. I just hesitate of calling them "martyrs" when some of them may be not. In fact, they should be remembered as victims, but not martyrs - a term that imply some sort of qualifications for respect. They don't need such.

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  3. I disagree with your viewpoint on Victoria Park, and so does the author of Zhao Ziyang's memoirs. The following is taken from Bao Pu's speech at Hong Kong's FCC on June 4:

    Later, Bao Pu would say that the 500,000 Hong Kongers who protested against a potentially censorious "state secrets" law in 2003 had, in their small way, helped his publication, too. Each man who hit the streets ensured that he would have a place to freely do his work.

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  4. Point taken, but it seems pointless to me to argue over points of view, especially when they are more subjective perceptions than fact-based arguments.

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