CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Change cannot happen without remembering

HONG KONG (SE): “We must wake up and identify ourselves as Chinese people,” the former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, told around 300 people gathered to pray at Victoria Park on the anniversary of those who died  at Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.

He said that the matter is far from being resolved, as to date no responsibility on the part of the government has been admitted and there has never been an apology.

“We cannot keep silence,” he added, “not because of ourselves, but for the coming generation, which will still have to live with the consequences.”

His remarks were backed up in a statement issued by the Tiananmen Mothers, which says that their ultimate regret is not seeing justice done and wrong redressed.

The group is made up of people who lost loved ones when tanks rolled across a massed gathering in Tiananmen Square just 27 years ago.

For the first time in those 27 years, the annual letter released by the group was not signed by the founder, Ding Zilin, but by 131 people who described themselves as having suffered all kinds of hardships for decades, so they have nothing left to fear.

The letter goes on to say, “For 27 years, we, victims’ families, have rationally maintained our three appeals; truth, accountability and compensation, in an effort to seek a just resolution to the miscarriage of justice of June 4.”

It then laments that to the contrary, the government has pretended before the whole world that the massacre never happened, while at the same time washing the memory from the collective memory of the Chinese people.

The passing of time has not seen a lessening of state pressure exerted on those in China who seek to remember.

Cardinal Zen said that the impasse on the Tiananmen resolution is a structural problem and it is necessary to pray for and support those who are still alive, as unless the deaths at Tiananmen are remember and honoured, there will never be structural change.

Cardinal Zen called those who died at Tiananmen martyrs, as he said that they died in a bid to find freedom, not only for themselves, but for their country as well.

He added that the large gathering in the park on the anniversary is one way we have of ensuring that fair judgement is given to their deaths and that they are remembered with due appreciation for what they did.

He added that we too need to remember their sacrifice

Radio Free Asia quoted the Weiquanwang and Humanitarian China groups as saying that four people in China were detained after meeting in a private home on May 27 to pray for those who died.

The report says that a democracy movement veteran, Zhao Changqing, and civil rights advocates, Zhang Baocheng, Ma Xinli and Xu Caihong, were detained in the early hours of the morning.

“Xu Caihong is in the police station right now under criminal detention... on suspicion of picking quarrels and stirring up trouble,” He Bin, the husband of Xu, told Radio Free Asia on June 1. “They told me she will be transferred to the Fengtai Detention Centre today.”

He added, “They told me she would be locked up for at least 30 days and that this could be extended.”

Security in Beijing was tight in the days running up to the June 4 anniversary and police were on the lookout to squash any planned public demonstration or commemoration before it had a chance to be seen by the public eye.

People have also been followed and kept under 24-hour observation.

A member of the Tiananmen Mothers, Zhang Xianling, said, “They have been on duty since May 29. It is the same old routine. There are two or three of them near the elevators and two or three more at the foot of the stairs.”

She added that because there are some foreign people living in the same apartment block, the police have been using unmarked cars this year and they do not stop her from going out, but follow her wherever she goes, even to the supermarket.

Zha Jianguo, who is described as a veteran democracy advocate, said that security officials have been questioning him about what he intends to do on June 4.

He said that they told him that if he plans to go out and eat on any day up to June 6, then it would be better if they drove him in a police car.

Radio Free Asia also reported that a journalist, Gao Yu, and a former aide of the disgraced premier, Zhao Ziyang, have been taken out of Beijing and told they are having a vacation.

The Tiananmen Mothers say that they still believe that the tragedy of June 4 will one day reach a fair and just resolution, partly because they know that they are not fighting the cause alone, because they have the support of kind-hearted people all over the world.

“We use our immense maternal love to declare publicly to future generations; do not succumb to brute force, confront all evil forces with courage, and justice will prevail!” the letter concludes.

Cardinal Zen concluded by saying that we must clearly state that the Chinese nation belongs to the people and not to the party.

He added that the same can be said for the consciences of the people, they do not belong to the party either and it has no right to manipulate them by glossing over the tragedies of history.

The ageing cardinal said that people ask if there is religious freedom in China, but he then asked how there could be any freedom of religion, when the people still do not enjoy freedom of conscience or expression.

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