Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Democratic Progress in Hong Kong Part 1 - 6.4 Protest

I have originally wanted to write about June 4 2009 candle light protest in early June but unfortunately due to heavy work commitment and time constrains, I have to postpone it till now.

I shall do a series of write up of June 4 and July 1 protest march along with my thoughts on the democratic progress that Hong Kongers have achieved since 1997's handover of the ex-British Queen Colony to China.

4 June 1989 is a sad day for China as well as Hong Kong. It was even a fearful day for Hong Kong which was anticipating the eventual return to China's sovereign control in 1997. Many Hong Kongers have decided back then to plan for their eventual departure from their homeland for fear of the communist iron fist rule.

The massacred of Tianan Men protesters, who were mainly young students, has casted a terrible shadow of fear on Hong Kongers. From then on, there was a consistent outflow of Hong Kongers to all over the world, including Singapore, which eventually created the exodus all the way till 1997 which Hong Kong has not experienced before.

Amidst the fear of the Communist rule, the first candle light memorial service for the 1989 Tianan Men massacred was held in 4 June 1990. It was reported that tens of thousands of Hong Kongers attended the event and from then on, Hong Kong democratic and human right fighters have continued to organize such event annual for the next 20 years.

I have attended a few of such gathering in the past but this 20th anniversary memorial service is the biggest ever gathering I have seen so far. I estimated about 170 thousand people attended the event.

I was just a teenager when the massacred happened back then. My tears were rolling when I read about students being killed and how soldiers fired upon students and civilians who were totally unarmed. It was a sheer political awakening for me on how an authoritarian government with unchecked power could do to its own people. It is a mindless massacred just for the sake of power.

These students stood up against corruptions of that their country faced back then and demanded accountability of the government via democratic changes. It was out of pure patriotism that they took on to the street to demand change to the political system. But their demand was met with cold blooded massacred.

These students might be over zealous in asking for democracy but in my view, the massacred is totally unnecessary. There were advance anti-riot gears and tools to handle such demonstration and protests. To use guns to attack their own citizens who were just civilians is totally unacceptable. Guns, tanks and military machineries are supposed to be used on criminals and for defending the country against external invasion, not on civilians.

Besides, to me, these students are patriots, not traitors nor trouble makers. They are people who are concerned of their country's future. And I think it is about time that the Chinese Communist Party should put this part of the history right and admit their past mistakes in handling these protesters.

Unfortunately, some of the Pro-CCP people have asserted that there were no bloodshed, no massacred when army troops drove in Tianan Men. These blatant lies were told despite of the many evidence shown in various newspaper reports on the event.

The worse thing to happen is that the Chinese government has tried to blackout all news with regards to the 4 June event. Many forums and websites which are critical about the Chinese government were shut down. This reflects very badly on China especially so when it claims that it wants Shanghai to develop into an international financial center by 2020.

It is impossible to convince international investors to invest in Chinese listed companies or have any confidence in the whole system when the government itself could carry out such massive blackout of news and information over anything it deems undesirable!

The primary fundamental pillar of any international financial centers in the world is freedom of information flow. It is amazing that the Chinese government has done something so damaging to its future development plan without even knowing it! Distortion of information or total blackout of information is something intolerable for any world class financial centers.

China will have a long way to go to become the international financial center that it so desired if it carries on having such mindset over information control.

I am very impressed by Hong Konger who are well known for their very calculative mindset when it comes to business dealings. Part of the reason for such large turnout this year was due to the Chief Executive Donald Tsang's assertion that China has made great economic progress since 1989 and his view represented most Hong Kongers. What he meant explicitly was that Hong Kong have benefited from China's economic progress since 1989 and most Hong Kongers would not be bothered about what happened in 1989.

On the other hand, Hong Kong government has denied entry for few democratic activists which include those student leaders of the 1989 Tianan Men protest.

His view and his government's denial of entry for these people has angered many Hong Kongers who are usually more concerned about their livelihood than political events like this one. Many Hong Kongers participated in this candle light memorial service just to make a point to Donald Tsang that they do care about democratic development for the whole China, including Hong Kong, despite of enjoying economic concessions from the Chinese government.

They do not wish such draconian massacred to happen again in China, least Hong Kong, for any reason at all. Even economic development is not a good reason for such cold blooded massacred and human right violations.

More importantly, all these happenings had reminded Hong Kongers the importance of passing on the baton of democratic fighters to the younger generation. One of the main theme of the 20th anniversary gathering is passing on the memories of truth happening of 1989 Tianan Men massacred to the younger generation.

It is a thought provoking sight to witness young secondary school students taking their own initiative to participate in this gathering. And they demanded the truth to be taught in their history book instead of hiding the crucial fact of such massacred from them and the future generations.

I think Hong Kongers will continue to fight and push for more democratic progress, not only in Hong Kong itself, but for the whole China. It may become the important base for democratic fighters in China to push for their agenda in the years to come.

On the other hand, I believe that China should stop its desperate move on information control. It has issued a law to make it mandatory for PC makers in China to install a censorship program but met with strong resistance from the Chinese internet community, as well as PC makers.

The process of democratic liberation is inevitable when the market economy is to be further enhanced. If Chinese companies are to grow into bigger MNCs, they would need foreign funding and this could only be done with an assurance of transparency by means of free information flow.

Hong Kong may well continue to play an important role in pushing the boundaries of democratic development in the whole China. It would be interesting to see how things turn out in the next decade or so.

Goh Meng Seng

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