Archive for June 4th, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

June 4, 1989 Remembrance

The Monument of the Martyrs of Democracy (民主烈士紀念碑) in Victoria Park, Hong Kong bears some resemblance with the Monument to the People’s Heroes on Tian An Men Square in Beijing.

But it’s smaller – along with the Goddess of Liberty next to it, it only seems to stand at Victoria Park when the Tian An Men massacre is remembered, every year on June 4. Some fifty middle-school students laid down jasmine flowers there on Saturday morning, reports Radio Taiwan International. The Goddess had found a temporary home at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, after various controversies in 2010. The sculptor, overseas Chinese and foreign natinal Chen Weiming, had reportedly been denied entry to Hong Kong during the run-up to the 2010 memorial activities – “in accordance with the law”, said the immigration department.

June 4 is occasionally – and seemingly casually – mentioned by mainland China’s English-publication Global Times, but is otherwise mostly or completely taboo in the media. The Global Times conducts some fishy experiments with history once in a while, as it is mostly targeted at foreign readers. In May 2009, the paper mentioned the “incident” in an article on the evolution of Chinese intellectuals’ thought over two decades and tried to put it into an amiably remote historical perspective:

June 4 Incident broke out in 1989 and after that intellectuals in China “switched to silence”, according to Zhang Liping.

“Intellectuals no longer discussed ‘isms’ publicly, and shifted their focus to academic issues,” she said. “Some people worried that China might slip backward.”

Such worries were dispelled three years later in 1992 by Deng Xiaoping’s visit to South China.  “Deng’s speech reignited people’s hope and restored their confidence,” said Zhang Liping. In his speech, Deng emphasized the importance of economic reform and open-mindedness.

The happy ending:

After 1989, intellectuals became “more moderate and rational,” Zhang Liping said. “People realized that China would not change overnight.”

In Hong Kong, the Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China, established in May 1989, organizes the annual Vindicate 4 June and Relay the Torch activities. Wikipedia provides statistics about how many people have attended the vigils in Victoria park since 1990 (numbers stated by the Alliance and police respectively).*)

Just as Beijing, the Alliance has a strong sense of history. From one of its latest releases:

To commeorate the 22nd aniversary of the Tiananmen massacre and the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, the HK Alliance has prepared a series of events, among them a Ching Ming wreath laying ceremony, a 22 km long distance run, a lecture series about Xinhai Revolution and 89′ Democracy Movement, a kite-flying outing activist-style, a demonstration, and of course, the annual candlelight vigil at Victoria Park.

It’s the first candlelight vigil without Szeto Wah, once the organization’s chairman. He died on January 2 this year.

Hong Kong’s liberties are – informally – contested by Beijing. Many democrats have pointed that out before and after 1989. In 2008, Cao Erbao, then, or maybe still, head of the Chinese government’s Liaison Office’s research department, frankly stated that Hong Kong is governed by a duopoly of mainland Chinese cadres and local Hong Kong officials.

In that context, turnout on June 4 is a factor, too. The more civic awareness is shown, the less likely the authorities are to tighten their rule. In 2003, some 350,000 (police statistics) to 700,000 (protesters’ statistics) demonstrators opposed an anti-treason law, aka article 23.  The bill was then withdrawn, with no timetable for a re-introduction.

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Update, June 9, 2011

*) No latest statistics on Wikipedia yet, but according to a Straits Times report of June 5,

As many as 150,000 people on Saturday turned up for the annual vigil to commemorate the crushing of student-led democracy protests in Beijing 22 years ago, according to organisers. Police put the crowd figure at 77,000.

Update / Related

» Debating the Massacre, ChinaGeeks, June 7, 2011

» (Tens of) Thousands mark June 4 Anniversary, RTHK, June 5, 2011

» Wen Jiabao’s Endgame: Neither Law, nor Order, April 21, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Feelgood for the Day: Margot Christ Superstar

Margot Käßmann was the leading Lutheran bishop from 2009 to 2010.

On the Shining Path of Protestant Virtue

On the Shining Path of Protestant Virtue, there's no Room for Subtleties

Kirchentage – a traditional, now biennial lay-movement event,  – are something some of my family and friends love, and what others of us – me included, aren’t fond of at all. Controversy is a good thing – but sometimes, there seems to be too little controversy when the Kirchentag mainstream – yes, such a thing does exist – kicks in. In short, I distrust the atmosphere. That said, church congresses aren’t exactly what they appear to be on television. There are many small workshops coexisting, and somewhere, once in a while, you might get food for thought after all.

It seems that former bishop Margot Käßmann has managed to trigger second thoughts among some of the usually more happy Kirchentag goers though. That’s not because they wouldn’t be practising Christians. But it seems that they take their religion too serious to have it sliced into moralistic canapés.

“Frankly, I think this is a much better idea than to bomb road tankers in Kundus.”
Margot Käßmann, reacting to sarcastic advice to sit down in a tent with the Taliban and candles, and to pray.
Quoted by evangelisch.de

For Margot Käßmann, too, Dolly Parton’s wisdom applies – in the make-up room, to make oneself look natural takes longer than anything else.
Jan Feddersen, in an article for taz

taz is no likely paper to advocate war, but Feddersen appears to be thoroughly pissed-off. So seem several other editorialists. Lutheran theologicans may don simpler robes than Catholics, but that’s no all-around protection against hypocrisy and moralistic superelevation.

I thought about leaving church for some time during the 1980s,  which were similar times in wonderland. I took offense then, because I do have a sense of belonging to my denomination, even if a faithless one. But meantime,  I seem to take things easier. Käßmann’s platitudes don’t anger me the way similar 1980s simplifications did. Rather, they inspire the cartoonist inside me.

The real treasures of thought lie much deeper than the plebeian donnybrooks around Käßmann, or Eugen Drewermann.

That I’m too lazy myself to dive into them more frequently shouldn’t lead me to believe that there would be nothing but  “intellectual fast food” (Feddersen on Käßmann’s sermons) on offer.

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Related
» My Fearful Country, March 19, 2011
» “Wild Justice”, Philosophy Now, 2010
» An Exclamation of Joy, Urban Dictionary, July 9, 2007

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