On June 4, Tiananmen activist Han Dongfang defied police warnings and sat quietly on a bench in Victoria Park to commemorate the victims of June 4. In a Reuters interview, Han Dongfang said Hong Kong should not be discouraged despite the harsh crackdown on freedom.
Han nearly died in 1989 when Chinese army soldiers opened fire on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing. He was subsequently sentenced to prison and forced into exile. On Friday afternoon (June 4), Han came to Victoria Park to commemorate the victims of June 4, ignoring an annual candlelight vigil banned by police on the grounds of a new crown epidemic.
Wearing a black T-shirt and a yellow mask, Han Dongfang sat by an old banyan tree in the Victoria Park. He told Reuters about the importance of maintaining truth and not succumbing to fear in a city where individual rights are still guaranteed under new national security laws.
“Today, I just want to stay here,” said Han Dongfang, 58, with a long, flowery white beard.
He was surrounded by dozens of police officers who were searching and checking the identities of some passersby. Han Dongfang remains resolute about the tragedy that has consumed much of his life.
Despite Hong Kong’s crackdown under a national security law imposed last June, Han remains no less optimistic about the city that adopted him 28 years ago. He founded a labor civil society organization there.
On June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square, I saw the fire, I saw the bullets, I saw the blood,” Han said. …… But after all these things, Hong Kong is still Hong Kong. We are still privileged. There is still considerable space here, and don’t say you have lost it.”
“When you have your last breath left, don’t say you’re dead.”
Zou Xingtong, one of the organizers of the candlelight mourning event at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park, was arrested earlier on Friday. Police warned that more arrests would be made if the ban on illegal assembly was violated.
Han Dongfang acknowledged the risks, but said people were not trying to cross China’s national security red line, but rather do something dignified and meaningful.
The park may not be packed with tens of thousands of people for the first time in 32 years after police cordoned off the soccer field where most people gathered, but Han Dongfang remains confident that the record of history will survive.
“One important thing is, whatever happens don’t scare yourself,” he said.
“Don’t tell yourself there’s no light, especially in a dark tunnel, that won’t help. There must be light at the end of the tunnel.”