Hong Kong is the only place in China where you can publicly memorialize the victims of the Tiananmen Square incident. Since June 4, 1989 (6/4, 1989), thousands of Hong Kong citizens have gathered in Victoria Park to light candles and remember their mainland cousins’ struggle for democracy.
In Tiananmen Square, students built a statue they called the Goddess of Democracy, intended as a tribute to that which they were seeking. They built it over 10 meters tall, but it was destroyed when the square was cleared. One is always present at the protests in Hong Kong.
I attended the memorial in 2017, which was the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover of sovereignty to China. It was an ominous date, rife with tension around the handover and democracy and civil rights.
Sitting on the tennis courts, in the middle of tens of thousands of people, was a moving experience. It was silent, at times, and deafening at others.
Hong Kong is a huge city, with millions of citizens. It can be impersonal. But at this memorial, it wasn’t. People lit each others’ candles, and helped each other clean the wax off of the tennis courts.
Hong Kong is the only place where you can memorialize the victims of Tiananmen Square. And it can be a massive, impersonal city. And yet, on 6/4, it wasn’t.