Editorial: Long live the candlelight of June Fourth in our hearts. See you next year! | Apple Daily Hong Kong
By Lo Fung
On this June 4 night, Victoria Park was engulfed in darkness for the first time in 32 years. There was not a single flick of candlelight, nor a shadow of the gathering of citizens. There was not the tune of Bloodstained Glory, nor the singing of Flower of Freedom…; in their places were close to a thousand police in full gears and surly demeanors, along with their incessant announcements and reprimands of citizens to leave. In a sense, Carrie Lam’s government succeeded. Hers was the first government to silence June 4 in Victoria Park and snuff out the commemorative candlelight since the Handover.
Yet, to dig deeper, and especially those with a better understanding of history would know that extinguishing the Victoria Park June 4 candlelight by the Carrie Lam administration is no success, but rather the largest tactical blunder and failure since the Handover. As mentioned before, the June 4 candlelight vigil in Victoria Park was the best example of the most peaceful and rational way of expressing opinions, a mark for the international community to gauge whether the high-level autonomy of one country, two systems was still guaranteed, and proof of whether Hongkongers could continue to enjoy their freedom, rights, and unique way of life. The SAR government “succeeded” in killing a gathering that has always been peaceful and rational, “succeeded” in snuffing out the candlelight of Victoria Park, only to demonstrate to the foreigners residing in Hong Kong, international friends, and the governments of different countries that Hong Kong has lost its original luster, lost its original room for freedom, and lost its rights to express opinions peacefully and rationally. What else could be a bigger blow to the image of one country, two systems, than this action? What else could hurt the confidence of the people and international community in the approach of one country, two systems?
The darkened Victoria Park was no doubt more problematic than beneficial to Hong Kong and one country, two systems. At the same time, all the little tricks the government is using to turn June 4 into taboo are equally worrying. On the night of June 4, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese and seven Catholic churches held masses to mourn, commemorate, and pray for the victims of the June 4 Massacre and others. This used to be a very ordinary gathering, one that is not only protected by the Basic Law and Human Rights Law, but also adheres to the epidemic-prevention measures put forth by the government by only allowing a 30% capacity and following all social-distancing measures. However, since the organizations made low-key announcements of the event, all sorts of pressure, and direct and indirect attacks, came from every direction. There are also rumors being spread that the masses might violate the national security law and would be forced to cancel. The organizers had to clarify repeatedly that the event was completely lawful.
On the eve of June 4, the churches hosting these masses all received threatening banners being hung outside the buildings. Cardinal Joseph Zen received personal threats, and there were criticisms made toward the diocese for “cult incitement” in the mourning of the victims in a mass. Moreover, believers were also threatened that they were violating the National Security Law if they attended the masses. No organizations or individuals have been identified for putting up the banners with threats at the moment, but to have the capacity to put up such slandering threats, it must be an organized and planned effort with the aim to warn churches, and believers and citizens who had planned to attend the mass.
Under threats of the unknown, the clergy and staff were all prepared for the worst, including the possibility of people barging into the church to make trouble, to disrupt the service, and to cause chaos. At the start of the mass, they reminded believers and citizens to keep calm no matter what happens, and follow the instructions of the staff to leave, etc.
To note that there are masses in Catholic churches almost every single day. During holidays such as Easter and Christmas, many would participate, but there has never been such fear and intimidation like this one. However, the Church and the clergy were not making a big deal out of nothing. Two years ago on July 21, wasn’t there the terrorist attack by the white-clad people on ordinary citizens and MTR passengers? Who could guarantee that there would be no white-clad people barging into churches to make trouble and even beat people up? Who would know, should similar attacks happen, if law enforcement officers would turn around to leave or take more than 30 minutes to arrive at the scene?
There is no doubt that the austerity surrounding this year’s June 4 was unprecedented. Not only was the Victoria Park vigil banned, even individuals who held candles to mourn in public places like other parks received warnings of disturbance. Even the most ordinary religious gatherings protected by the Basic Law were clouded by white terror and became very nervous; the prospect of freedom of assembly, of speech, and of religion is truly pessimistic.
Thankfully, the determination and resilience of Hongkongers are extraordinary. Despite the tangible and intangible threats, the participation of the June 4 commemoration massed for the victims exceeded their capacity. Other commemorations also flourished in every form everywhere. They cannot be stopped. Some believers asked the Father after the mass whether he worried that a June 4 commemoration mass would not be allowed the following year. The Father smiled and said, “Yes. Pray, and it will be there. People’s hearts are here.”
Truly, the most “illuminated” thing about the night of June 4, 2021, was the undying persistence in people’s hearts. As long as we never accept the distortion of right and wrong, never surrender our insistence toward freedom, never forget our persistence the truths of history, then we can be sure that there will still be all sorts of commemorations and events next year on June 4.
See you next year!
This article is translated from Chinese by Apple Daily.
Click here for Chinese version
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