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A call to 

On June 4 this year, people again flocked to Victoria Park in Hong Kong to burn a candle for those who died during the massacre that took place in Tiananmen Square on that day in 1989.

On the surface, the annual memorial may seem like a simple ritual in memory of those who died combined with a call to the authorities in Beijing to vindicate their memories as patriotic citizens and not enemies of the state.

The blood that was shed in Beijing on that day 24 years ago does not belong to the past. It still lives and is defining relationships between people and government, and the nature of society and homeland.

The former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, pointed out to students at Hong Kong University during May that it is important to remember events from the past, because they are the key to understanding our identity and culture today.

While kitchen table chatter may confuse the adage of forgive and forget with wisdom, in terms of healing wounds or reestablishing trust and relationships, it is at best half wise.

While the time may well arise when forgiveness is appropriate and even laudable, events of the past, even painful ones, should never be forgotten, as to do so is to relegate the value of a human life to the easily dispensable basked, where it can be subjugated to the political, economic or social whim of those who trust only in chariots, spears and shields.

However, the controversy that raged in the run up to this year’s vigil over the slogan, Love the country and love the people; Hong Kong style, highlights the importance of not just remembering, but how we should remember.

On April 25 each year, people from Australia and New Zealand have traditionally recalled the tremendous loss of life at the hands of the Turkish Army at Gallipoli. The day treasures those who gave their lives to protect others, regrets the stupidity of war and recognises that no social problem can ever find its solution in violence.

However, 98 years on from the event, no memorial service is complete without the participation of Indian and other communities that made up the Allied Forces. But more significantly, the memorial is no longer complete without the participation the Turks; recognising that the horrific violence that took place in the hills and on the beach in 1915 deeply scarred people from every nation involved.

While such an understanding of memorial may have taken some 80 odd years to mature, the annual remembrance ceremonies have been a vital cog in the process of developing new relationships, allowing forgiveness to take place and the people of all involved nations to embrace each other in friendship, rather than stand back in fear.

Reconciliation is the ultimate goal of remembering the tragic.

The call to Beijing to vindicate the memories of those who died is a call to reconciliation. It is a public demonstration that the decision to brand them as enemies of the state is, in the eyes of many, not an acceptable ending, and will certainly not lead to either forgiveness or a new understanding of what it means to be a good citizen of the country and the world.


It is of vital importance to keep remembering and continue the search for reconciliation. JiM