Event holds very different memories for HK, Taiwan

Event holds very different memories for HK, Taiwan
Participants wearing masks of Chinese dissident and Nobel Peace laureate Liu Xiaobo at the June 4 commemoration held in Taipei last year.

From 1989 until today, Hong Kong and Taiwan have played separate but complementary roles in supporting the Tiananmen movement.

But with both Chinese societies going through troubled pangs in their relationship with China, they are also increasingly marking Tiananmen in ways different from those in the past.

A 'Qingming' ritual?

Every June 4, Hong Kong's Victoria Park is suffused in candlelight and camaraderie as tens of thousands gather in a night vigil.

Organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, the vigil calls for a reversal of the official verdict of the protest as a "counter-revolutionary rebellion".

As the only place on Chinese soil that marks the event on such a scale, Hong Kong has long been seen as the torchbearer for the memory of June 4, 1989.

But Mr Wong Yeung Tat, 35, can barely conceal his disdain.

The founder of Passion Times, a radical "nativist" - or bentu - group which advocates the protection of a separate Hong Kong identity, is co-organising for the first time an event at Tsim Sha Tsui today. Calls will be made for the Communist Party to step down and its flag burned. This, he said, is the only way Hong Kong can achieve "genuine democracy".

"We Hong Kongers should not be remembering June 4 by holding candles, like we are paying respects to ancestors during Qingming," he said. "We should remember June 4 by fighting for Hong Kong's own democracy."

Freelance writer Edward Tang, 29, who is participating in this, said it is important to remember the day simply so Hong Kong will be "well-prepared if the same thing happened to us".

Such sentiments are still in the minority. But with at least three rival events this year, they appear to be gaining sympathy in a society where ties with China have taken on a sometimes hysterical edge over issues from Beijing's accused stymying of its democratisation to scuffles with mainland tourists.

It thus challenges the narrative of why Tiananmen is important to Hong Kong: A shared destiny between both places.

In 1989, as Hong Kongers followed the developments in Beijing, there was what China expert Steve Tsang called "a vital transition" in how they saw themselves - as Chinese with also a role to play in China's democracy movement. The alliance was set up then by politicians like Mr Szeto Wah and Mr Martin Lee, who see themselves as Chinese patriots.

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