Between loyalty and memory, Hong Kong officials on edge over decades-old Tiananmen condemnation

2021.05.31
Between loyalty and memory Hong Kong officials on edge over decades old Tiananmen condemnation

Hong Kong officials and pro-Beijing heavyweights refused to comment on the Tiananmen Square massacre as the annual vigil is banned for the second year in a row. But old newspapers revealed that many were once among the signatories of petitions supporting the student movement in 1989.

Within Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s cabinet, at least three ministers, namely Financial Secretary Paul Chan, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing and Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong, have endorsed public petitions in newspapers.

Chan joined accountants to urge the Chinese authorities to resolve the crisis with a peaceful and humanitarian method and express concerns that the Communist Party might undermine the rights of Hong Kong citizens after the handover. He refused to comment if he still endorses the content of the petition.

Wong voiced against the violent crackdown in a joint petition by architects. Speaking in 2012, Wong said June 4 “is a problem that needs to be considered in conscience. In the future, history and the next generations will make a judgement.” Confronted by Apple Daily reporters at the Legislative Council in May, Wong left without speaking.

Pressed by reporters in May, Law, who had participated in the annual vigils in the past, stressed that “all illegal actions are considered crimes.” “Sorry, I have only participated in legal rallies during all those years,” he added.

Ma Fung-kwok, a pro-establishment lawmaker for the Sports, Performing Arts, Culture and Publication constituency, endorsed a petition that said June 4 traumatized Hong Kong people and called for the democratization of Hong Kong’s political system. When confronted, he berated journalists for being in his way. He refused to verify a copy of the petition, blaming reporters for questioning him on something he no longer remembers.

Paul Tse, a pro-Beijing legislative councilor who represents Kowloon East, claimed he has no recollection of signing a joint petition from legal professionals that condemned the bloody crackdown. He admitted to endorsing the statement, after he was shown a copy. “The era is different. The historical situation is always evolving. Conclusions and views made during those years may need to be amended,” he said.

Former Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying also published a statement in the newspaper on June 6, 1989, where he “severely condemned the Chinese Communist regime for its bloody massacre of Chinese people.” In total, his signature can be found in five statements, including one that urged all Hong Kong financial workers to fight for Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and freedom. Leung did not reply to a request for comment.

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