Catholic government head in Hong Kong criticised on Tiananmen

By Ecumenical News International
May 28, 2009

Some Catholic leaders in Hong Kong have criticised one of their faithful, the head of the government there, for making what they say is a distorted moral judgment on the 4 June 1989 massacre in Beijing's Tiananmen Square - writes Francis Wong.

Hong Kong Chief Executive, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen had said that an objective assessment was needed about the event in view of China's economic development.

In its 24 May 2009 issue, the Hong Kong Catholic weekly newspaper Kung Kao Po strongly criticised Tsang as a Catholic for claiming to represent Hong Kong people in his remarks made in the Hong Kong Legislative Council over the 1989 crackdown on thousands of students and civilians who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square to call for democracy and clean government.

"I understand Hong Kong people's feelings about June 4, but the incident happened many years ago. The country's development in many areas has since achieved tremendous results and brought economic prosperity to Hong Kong," said Tsang. "I believe Hong Kong's people will make an objective assessment of the nation's development."

Tsang, who was speaking at a 13 May session of the governing body, said, "My view represents the opinion of Hong Kong people in general, and the opinion of citizens has affected my view. What I have just said is how I feel about the views of the people of Hong Kong."

The remarks triggered an outcry in the legislative chamber. Tsang later apologised, while the Hong Kong government described the remarks as a slip of the tongue.

The Catholic weekly's editorial stated, "Any comment made about June 4 cannot ignore the fact that the repression is still going on, as evidenced in the refusal to allow people in exile to return home and groups like the Tiananmen Mothers to mourn their dead children publicly."

The official Catholic newspaper asserted, "while it is true that both the mainland and Hong Kong have experienced continued and considerable economic growth in the 20 years since Tiananmen, neither Tsang nor the authorities in Beijing can argue that there is a causal connection between the crackdown and the prosperity of a later age."

The editorial noted, "It is strange that the chief executive of Hong Kong would presume that a criminal act could somehow be justified by economic gain." It continued, "To attempt to justify any atrocity involving the blatant taking of human life ... reflects a confused value system and a distortion in moral judgement."

Jackie Hung, of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Hong Kong, said Tsang's remarks represented the policy direction of the government with an eye on benefits, but ignoring marginalised people. The Catholic commission has organized workshops, exhibitions, prayer meetings and Masses, running from early May to 4 June, to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Ding Zilin, who lost her son in the massacre and is now a leader of the Tiananmen Mothers Campaign, was quoted as saying that Tsang's remarks followed Beijing's line on the crackdown. She said, "Donald Tsang has lost his conscience as a person.".

At the same time some Christians have launched a "Donald Tsang Not Representing Us Campaign", asking for the direct election of the local government head, rather than his appointment by Beijing as is now the practice.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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