06/01/2009, 00.00
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Card. Zen: 20 years on from Tiananmen, Deng is dead: it's time to change the Chinese dictatorship

by Gianni Criveller
The Archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong says it's time to criticise Deng Xiaoping for his responsibility for the massacre. June 4th 1989, marks the moment when love and patriotism for China blossomed in the hearts of the people of Hong Kong. Using the recent economic progress as a justification of the massacre “is nonsense”.

Hong Kong  (AsiaNews) – “It is truly sad that 20 years have passed [since the Tiananmen massacre] and the tragedy still hasn’t been recognised by the government as an error and a crime….Deng himself took full responsibility when in the days immediately after the massacre he went personally to congratulate the soldiers.   He gave the order.  But now Deng is long dead: is it really possible that years on justice still has not been served for fear of a person who died years ago?”. 

Card. Joseph Zen, Archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, champion of democracy and religious freedom, expresses in these terms his displeasure and wonder at the Chinese government’s refusal to admit the error of Tiananmen.

In an interview with AsiaNews – which will be published in full in coming days – he affirms that at the origins of this “rejection” is the Chinese dictatorial system, a system that it is time to change.

“[The Chinese] system depends on one person.  That person has been forward looking and intelligent on certain issues, but that person could not stand democracy, as he considered himself an emperor.  Recently someone said: but how can we rehabilitate that movement [Tiananmen]? We would have to blame Deng Xiaoping! But that is impossible! So I ask: and why can we not blame Deng Xiaoping? He did something enormous.  Mao was blamed for the cultural revolution, so why shouldn’t we blame Deng too?  We must, absolutely, change this dictatorial, imperial system, which is the root cause of this vast tragedy”.

The prelate – who twenty years ago was a simple priest – recalls the participation of the people of Hong Kong in the Tiananmen movement and their pain for the massacre.

“That year [1989] gave birth to a new awareness and sensitivity among the people of Hong Kong: we are Chinese, we are part of this great nation.  Up until that point we believed we were only people from Hong Kong.  But on that occasion we all felt truly Chinese”.

“At the time I was the religious director of the Salesian school of Aberdeen, superior of the community and school supervisor.  Because the events took place on a Sunday, the following Monday, when we all gathered in the school, we spoke with tears in our eyes, because we felt Chinese and we shared in the emotions and fate of those young people who had the courage to come out and ask for a reform of their homeland.  I remember in the aftermath of the massacre I made two speeches, and then we held a commemorative service for those heroes who died on that square and in the surrounding streets”.

“In particular I remember the day of the great march when a million citizens here in Hong Kong took to the streets in prayer and song.  It was a truly unique experience, something I will remember for the rest of my life”.

From ‘89 on, every year in Hong Kong on June 4th, a great vigil is held to recall the dead of Tiananmen.  Held in Victoria Park, thousands gather together.  As bishop of Hong Kong, card. Zen always took part in the prayer vigil that preceded the gathering.“I remember a few years ago, during one of the prayer vigils I was asked if I would return the following year and I replied: next year I hope we will be here to celebrate a victory that is the recognition of the martyrs of Tiananmen as patriotic heroes and the government’s admission of its error in suppressing them”.

“It is truly a sad thing that 20 years have gone by and the government still refuses to recognise its mistake and its great crime.  But [for us], after 20 years nothing has changed, we still feel the profound ache of the loss of that youthful passion that was tragically wasted”.

In recent days the Chief of the Hong Kong Executive, Donald Tsang, stated that the Tiananmen massacre had to be “left to history” and be forgotten, and he asked the people of Hong Kong to instead appreciate the “excellent economic results” achieved by Hong Kong and China in the aftermath of the massacre.

Card. Zen replies: “That comment is not of his own making, it is simply official policy: by repressing that movement stability was gained and from it prosperity.  But that is nonsense, pure nonsense.  No-one can prove that stability grew from the repression of that movement, and in any case, success and prosperity can never, ever, justify such a terrible use of violence”.



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