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June 4 and the identity of a Hongkonger

People in Hong Kong have begun preparing to commemorate of the tragedy of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing on 4 June 1989, and Church groups have organised prayer services to honour the students who sacrificed their lives on that fateful day. This annual remembrance demonstrates the link between Hong Kong and mainland China. 

However, some issues—particularly socio-political tensions—have arisen in recent years, prompting debate over what a Hong Kong local is and what it means to identify oneself as a Hongkonger, prompting reconsideration of the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China.

As the word country encompasses a number of notions such as land, nation, people and even regime, differing views are inevitable when Hong Kong people reflect on their identity.

It is hoped that society and those in positions of authority face up to what people really hope for and strive for true unity. For while the government habitually uses national unity as its slogan, it should not be a burdensome yoke imposed on the people. Rather, national unity should be an essential element that invites people to come together as one to promote democracy and the common good.

History shows that a united people can play a positive role in the development of a country. Blessed Pope Paul VI’s 1967 encyclical, On the Progress of Peoples (Populorum Progressio), says, “Nations are the architects of their own development, and they must bear the burden of this work; but they cannot accomplish it if they live in isolation from others” (77). Pope St. John XXIII’s 1963 encyclical, Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), also states that a nation builds society in accordance with common characteristics with the aim of contributing to the common good. “Among the essential elements of the common good one must certainly include the various characteristics distinctive of each individual people. But these by no means constitute the whole of it” (55).

Over the past 25 years, tens of thousands of Hong Kong citizens have participated in the June 4 commemoration activities, demonstrating that Chinese people around the world belong to the same family.

As we Christians commemorate the tragedy of June 4, we should remember to view history through the eyes of faith, hope and love. 

The persistence of the survivors in preserving the truth strengthens the hope that the unvarnished reality will one day be revealed. 

Some members of the public were asked whether Tiananmen tragedy should continue to be commemorated in its current form, or whether it should be commemorated at all—the rationale being that we should seek to internalise of the values of democracy rather than remain entrenched in the sorrow of commemoration and so empower the call for democracy. 


As Christians, we should look outward to the whole world, show compassion for all those who suffer, deepen our trust in God and fulfill the mission of building society through charitable acts and the prophetic role given to us. Our faith can transform controversies into dynamics and enable us to discern the identity the people of Hong Kong and see the road ahead. SE