CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 20 July 2019

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Forum deliberates role of the Church in democratic movements

HONG KONG (SE): In response to the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the Justice and Peace Commission and the Catholic Commission for Labour Affairs organised a forum at St. Vincent’s parish, Wong Tai Sin, on May 25, to look at democratic movements in the modern history of South Korea, Taiwan and China and the role of the Church in these events. 
 
Su Nan-chou, director of the Song of Songs Publishing House in Taiwan, shared his views on the February 28 incident in Taiwan in 1947. The anti-government uprising arose because of discontentment with the high-handed policies and corruption of the Kuomintang authorities. The uprising was triggered by a the confiscation of contraband cigarettes from a Taiwanese widow on February 27 that year. 
 
The Kuomintang government attempted a violent suppression of the uprising as agents took tens of thousands of people from their homes, who then disappeared, putting Taiwan under a white terror for over 40 years.
 
Su pointed out that Christians sought justice for the victims in a peaceful way instead demanding vindication. He said the path for democracy lay not in assigning who was right or wrong, but in helping people to walk the path of justice and the path favoured by God.
 
He said the people of Taiwan chose to hold indirect memorial activities, such as worship services for peace held by Protestant Churches, instead of creating further conflict so as to avoid being suppressed. He said on the way to seeking justice, the most important thing is to understand the thoughts of the families of the victims.
 
Kim Yang-rae, executive director of the May 18 Memorial Foundation, said he was a university student when Gwangju Uprising against against military rule in South Korea took place in 1980 resulting in the deaths of 2,000 people. Kim, who was jailed for taking part, recalled that only a small number of dioceses supported the protest at that time and the bishop’s conference was silent. However, the Catholic Church still played a significant role in disclosing the truth. 
 
While the Diocese of Gwangju was isolated at that time, information about what happened was gathered by a neigbouring diocese and disseminated.  Booklets about the incident were distributed by the Archdiocese of Seoul and donation campaigns for the families of the victims were organised by the Diocese of Busan. 
 
After his release from prison, Kim later became the secretary general of the Justice and Peace Commission . South Korean society dealt with the incident through investigation, punishment, vindication, compensation and memorial activities. Kim stressed that not one single step should be missed otherwise there will be distortion of history.
 
Father Louis Ha Ke-loon, consultant of Hong Kong’s Justice and Peace Commission, recalled that memorial events were held by the Church in Hong Kong after the Tiananmen Massacre on 4 June 1989, including prayer services, fasting and a large-scale memorial Mass. 
 
He believes that people’s memories can fade over time, so it is important to integrate these recollections with daily life, which is the reason why a weekly Mass has to be held to remember the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He said, similarly, when people remember the massacre in memorial activities, they are recognising the sacrifice and dignity of the victims and paying respect.
 
Kwong Kwok-chuen, a participant at the forum, told the Kung Kao Po that the Tiananmen Massacre was a painful experience. Thirty years later, he said that what troubles him most was that many who witnessed the protest in Beijing and the crackdown later, have now chosen to be silent and urge people to forget about it. As a father and a secondary school teacher, he said he was concerned about the future of the next generation.
 
On May 26, around 2,200 people joined a rally from Southern Playground, Wan Chai, to the Liaison Office of the Central Government in Western District, to mark the anniversary. Before the rally, the Union of Hong Kong Catholic Organisations in support of the Patriotic and Democratic Movement in China held a prayer service outside the Southern Playground. Protesters in the rally, which was organised by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements of China, called for the vindication of the massacre as well as the withdrawal of the extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government.
 
A Mass, attended by around 300 people, was celebrated by Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun at St. Francis of Assisi Church, Sham Shui Po, on May 31. The cardinal said the victims of the Tiananmen Massacre and their families need our prayers as there has been no vindication for them 30 years on. 
 
He also urged people to pray for the Church in China as well as Hong Kong people imprisoned for fighting for universal suffrage. He expressed the hope that people will have the courage and determination to fight against unjust laws.

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