For the first time in 26 years, the Hong Kong University Students’ Union (HKUSU) is to boycott the Tiananmen Square vigil held annually on June 4 in Victoria Park. Instead, the union will hold its own assembly at the HKU campus.
The unanimous decision to split from the main event was made due to ideological conflicts between the HKUSU and the organising body of the Victoria Park vigil, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China. The debate essentially stems from localised elements of the HKUSU who do not agree that democracy must be realised in mainland China before Hong Kong.
The historic decision for the HKUSU to host its own assembly is representative of clear divisions among Hong Kong’s pro-democracy camp, with the HKUSU also splitting from the Hong Kong Federation of Students (HKFS) – the general organisation (headed by Joshua Wong) formed by the student unions of Hong Kong’s seven higher education institutes.
But among all of this conflict, how do the students that the HKUSU represent feel about what’s happening on this important day?
Arika Ho Ka Yi – Year 2, Bachelor of Journalism and Global Studies (HKUSU Member)
“I started attending the vigil three years ago, and over time I became disillusioned with some of the principal ideas pushed forward by those who were there. I will attend the one at HKU because the emphasis has been placed on scholarly discussion and education, rather than singing or chanting.”
Angel Chu On Ki – Year 3, Bachelor of Psychology and Politics
“With regards to Tiananmen Square, I think that both sides are responsible for what happened. With regards to the vigil, I don’t quite understand why the HKUSU is splitting off and having one by themselves. My question here is, ‘What’s the priority?’ If it’s to memorialise the students and to bring as many people together to celebrate their lives, does splitting off help accomplish that goal?”
Ngai Pak Lam – Year 3, Bachelor of Science
“Five years ago I wasn’t well educated about the events of Tiananmen Square and the issues surrounding it. I took it upon myself to read more news and research it, and after some persuasion from my friends I decided to attend the vigil for the first time. I feel that regardless of whether it is held in Victoria Park or HKU, it is important to keep educating people about the issues, seeing as this was a major historical event. I feel that only by continuing to host events like the vigils will things begin to change.
“The first time I attended the vigil was three years ago. I didn’t really buy into the agenda of the Victoria Park vigil with regards to how political it can get. I think that if the HKUSU has a rationale and feel it is important to split off from Victoria Park and have their own celebration then I think they should. But what I think is important to keep in mind is if the rationale used by the HKUSU is agreed upon by the entire student body.”
Irene Gong – Year 3, Bachelor of Laws
“Last year I attended a vigil in Tsim Sha Tsui with hundreds of other people. I went there to celebrate the lives of the people who passed away and a majority of the people there wanted to as well, but there were radical elements there that were attacking the peaceful members. They were arguing, swearing, and being disruptive of the ceremony. I’ll probably attend the Victoria Park vigil tonight. I’m going to Victoria Park because it’s the biggest one and I personally have issues with the HKUSU. I think remembering the lives of those who passed away should be the central principle of this event.”
Matthew Leung Hin Sun – Year 2, Bachelor of Engineering
“I feel what happened at Tiananmen Square was a travesty, but I don’t think going to the vigil will solve anything. If anything, I think it’s kind of pointless because they have it every year and it seems like things aren’t going anywhere. If the HKUSU wants to create their own event based on their own principles I think it’s valuable because it’s an opportunity to educate people, especially those who disagree with what they do in Victoria Park.”
Photo: Ryanne Lai via Wikipedia Commons