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Struggle of memory against forgetting|Glacier Kwong

Every year on June 4 in the past 30 years, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China organized a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to commemorate the June 4 Incident. In 2020, for the first time, no notice of no objection had been issued, but a large number of people still ventured into Victoria Park to hold up candles. With a number of activists having been jailed for an unauthorized assembly in 2021, 26 others charged with taking part in the June 4 vigil last year, and the National Security Law in force, it is still uncertain whether Victoria Park will be filled with candlelight this year.

On June 4, 2020, there was no stage, no program, and no attendance statistics, but the people who went to Victoria Park on their own initiative filled almost all the six football pitches. I found Gwyneth and the other candidates who took part in the primaries in the middle of a basketball court, and that dozens of cameras got them in the cross hairs. While most of them were holding a white candle, Sunny was on the phone, and Gwyneth waved at me. I stood aside with my colleagues and waited for things to happen. Nobody was sure at the time if there would be tear gas or clashes. In the park, I kept running into acquaintances that I knew but had never been in touch with personally. They all greeted me warmly and enthusiastically as if we knew each other so well.

Moved by their warm welcomes, I was also wondering why all these happened. All of them had used to have political ideas very different from mine, and we had never known each other quite well. The fact is I left for my Master’s studies in 2018, so I even had fewer chances to get to know them. Later on, I asked Joshua Wong, “I guess everyone is just thrilled to have you back? Like assembling a team.” Later that night, someone gave me a candle but I never lit it as I did not have a paper cup to contain the dripping wax. Someone bought a bowl of dumplings but no one ever touched them. People were singing ‘Glory to Hong Kong’, waving flags and chanting slogans. After the vigil ended, some of us went for dinner. Someone proposed Thai food in Wan Chai. On the way, we suspected we were being followed. Outside Windsor House, people started chanting slogans against the police, but it was hard to tell who they were with their masks on.

No sooner had we arrived at the restaurant than Lester shot at me with the question: “Are you ready for 10 years in jail?” I did not answer but cursed at him. He laughed and apologized for it. Then he started to analyze how close I was to being arrested and jailed under the national security law. He and Gwyneth made a list of all of us, including himself, and told me when it would be my turn. I can no longer remember exactly what we all said, but I remember feeling like home. The topics we touched on were indeed heavy, but we were so happy as we cracked jokes about all the possible worst-case scenarios ahead of us.

And what we joked about have come true. Lester, Gwyneth and so many others are in jail right now for various reason. Hong Kong has become a place where it is impossible to “remember” anything: documentaries have to be deleted; books have to be taken down from shelves in libraries; the regime says whatever it wants and fabricates history as it sees fit. Even though the Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong is illogical and self-contradictory, it points a gun at you so that you’d cheer for them. Genocide is disguised as national pride; a thug with a baton in her hand is a loving mother; an officer in an illegal prostitution site is a moral gentleman… Even if we are willing to remember, how much can each of us remember?

The struggle of man against power is a struggle of memory against forgetting. If each of us chooses to remember what have happened, we can actually remember everything that has happened, just as we mourn every year for those who died on June 4, 1989. School teachers who teach the June 4 Incident may be fired; public mourning for the June 4 Incident may result in convictions; political suppression continues unabated. But if we don’t try to remember what happened in 1989, if we don’t try to tell the truth, history will become a taboo, or even an urban legend, and no one will ever know if it is real ten years from now.

It has been 32 years since the June 4 Incident, and for many Hong Kong people, the June 4 Incident have passed for a long time, or seems like a matter for the previous generation.

But what the students in Beijing faced that day is the same as what the people of Hong Kong are facing today. If we can no longer talk about the June 4 Incident, do we have room for the next generation to talk about what happened in 2019? Different generations have different views on the June 4 Incident, but the major difference has ceased to exist since 2019. What is important is that in the post-National Security Law era, even if it is a small rebellion, it is meaningful. Although Hong Kong people have never had a democratic system, we know what it is like to be free, and we must remember it and remember it well for the day when we can exercise our freedom again.

(Glacier Kwong, born and raised in Hong Kong, became a digital rights and political activist at the age of 15. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Law and working on the course for Hong Kong in Germany. Her work has been published on Washington Post, TIME, etc.)

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