CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Praying that Tiananmen may be looked on in a new light

HONG KONG (SE): The light of day began to fade on the people gathering for a prayer service, organised by the Franciscan Justice and Peace Team and the Union of Hong Kong Catholic Organisations in Support of the Patriotic and Democratic Movement in China, at the performance space near the kiosk in Victoria Park in the early evening of the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

But as the light of the candles burning in memory of those who died in Beijing on that day 24 years ago silhouetted the shadows of the gathering against the darkening black clouds building in the sky, emcees Chau Kun-yi, the president of the Students Federation, and vice president, Sek Kwo-fung, invited the 800 or so people present to bow their heads in prayer.

The prayer service was spared the drenching rain that fell for the first time ever on the annual Tiananmen vigil, soaking the more than 150,000 people, whose candles had transformed the shadows of the giant park into a dancing sea of flickering light.

But when the light became darkness, the organisers were forced to cut the programme short by about one hour.

Sek opened the prayer service saying, “During the time that has elapsed since Tiananmen, China has advanced tremendously in economic development.”

But in inviting the gathering to join together in prayer for the victims of the horrific violence of almost a quarter of a century ago, he lamented that in terms of human rights and religious liberty, as well as freedom to speak and gather, little progress has been seen.

“The students at Tiananmen stood out for values,” he continued, “values that are recognised as universal, but the government wanted economic progress.”

Sek invited the gathering to pray that the drive for economic progress would never again be placed before the welfare of people and that the authorities in Beijing may develop a more balanced understanding of the dignity of every human being.

He asked those present to be as one with the mothers whose children had died at Tiananmen and who are still being denied the right to mourn openly and freely, saying that people in Hong Kong, who do enjoy these freedoms, must embrace them so that others too may one day have the chance to move forward.

Recalling that Jesus retired to pray before facing testing times or making important journeys, Chau called on people to join together in asking God to touch the hearts of officials in China, in order that they may recognise that those who died, suffered life-long injuries or have been ostracised from mainstream society as a result of their participation in Tiananmen, may be recognised as the patriots they are and not portrayed as enemies of the state.

The hour-long service invited people to pray that the Tiananmen Mothers may be comforted, prisoners of conscience freed and that the government may see its way free to work with the Church in China for the benefit of all people, rather than seeking to create its own Church.

They prayed for those who have suffered repression at the hands of the Beijing authorities because they called for reconciliation and recognition of the truth of what happened at Tiananmen.

A special remembrance was given to Li Wangyang, who died in jail almost one year previously to the day.

Li was imprisoned for 21 years for organising protests in Hunan in support of the people massing in Tiananmen Square in May and June 1989.

Sek explained that his experience in prison left him blind and virtually unable to walk, but he remained loyal to his beliefs to the end.

He asked people to pray that his witness may give strength to those who walk in the way of justice and righteousness.

People joined together to pray that Christ may show the way of justice to the people and finally, that God may receive with mercy the souls of those who died at Tiananmen.

Sek spoke of the current bishop of Shanghai, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who is being denied the right to take his proper place in the life of the Church in China.

He pointed out that he has been under house arrest since his ordination as a bishop on July 7 last year and was even prevented from being present at the funeral of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during May.

“There are lots of ways of glorifying God,” Sek said. “Bishop Ma has chosen a most difficult way. He is prepared to give his witness in suffering. He is an inspiration for all of us and especially for the Catholic people of China. He is truly a prophet for our times.”

A 15-year-old student from the Salesian English School in Shaukeiwan, who introduced himself as Ryan, told the Sunday Examiner that he was touched by the prayer gathering.

“This is the first one I have been to,” he said. “But I will definitely be back next year.”

He explained that at school that day, teachers had prepared them for the event, showing videos and other educational material on what happened in Tiananmen, as well as inviting students to give their reflections on what they learned.

“I learned a lot tonight as well,” he added.

Another student reflected that simply looking at the faces of people at prayer in the park was an inspiration to him. “There is such respect,” he said. “It helped me to understand how important it is to pray at times like these.”

One teacher explained that she believes that such education for young people is essential and was disappointed to learn that at some Catholic schools in Hong Kong students had been banned from writing about it on their Facebook accounts and memorial ceremonies were not allowed.

 

The service ended with a prayer that the spirit of Christ may live on in the hearts of all people, especially in China, as the people joined in procession to mingle with the throngs gathering for the annual candlelight vigil on the soil of the only Chinese city to host a public memorial for those who have suffered as a result of the tragedy.

More from this section