Father Louis Ha and Biddy Kwok who actively supported protesting pro-democracy students in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in mid-1989 when they were fired on by Communist Government troops. Now they are participating in an exhibition to commemorate those events and the supportive role of the Catholic Church. (ucanews.com photo)
Catholics in Hong Kong have begun conducting a special exhibition to commemorate the crackdown by China's communist regime on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square
on June 4, 1989. Estimates of the number of people killed when troops with assault rifles and tanks opened fire on the mainly student protesters range from several hundred to thousands. Victims are now sharing accounts of their brutal treatment so that others, particularly members of the younger generation, will gain insights into what transpired. Catholic organizers of a May 18-26 exhibition in Hong Kong wanted to show that the Church supported the pro-democracy movement. They invited Biddy Kwok, who is the chairperson of the Justice and Peace Commission of Hong Kong Diocese, and Father Louis Ha
also from Hong Kong Diocese.
Kwok closely followed what was happening in China in the wake of the death in April 1989 of Hu Yaobang, who was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China. Students in Beijing at that time mourned Hu Yaobang as a reformist and criticized government corruption. They gathered at Tiananmen Square seeking a dialogue with the government in a bid to achieve democratic reforms. Kwok recalls now that the ruling Communist Party hierarchy had broken her heart by imposing martial law on May 20, the day after Zhao Ziyang, Hu’s successor, visited students on hunger strike in Tiananmen Square. The announcement prompted thousands of Hong Kong people to support the protesting students in Beijing despite stormy weather, Kwok recalled as her eyes were brimmed with tears. "Once I stepped out from home to join the protest, my life changed," she said, adding that other Catholic parishioners came onto the streets. "At that moment, even though I was all wet under the rain, I still felt warm because I realized that there were companions who had the same faith as me," Kwok said of that time. Father Ha said there were then Catholic Church events such as prayer meetings and Masses to support the democracy movement. Father Ha was then the Hong Kong Catholic Social Communications Office director and he offered space to journalists returning from Beijing to compile reports and edit film footage. That included editing a film record of the massacre that occurred on June 4, 1989. The priest added that because of such assistance being given, Hong Kong citizens knew that the Church was working for justice and peace. Father Ha also recalled that Cardinal John Baptist Wu
, the former bishop of Hong Kong, regarded the student movement as peacefully and rationally seeking democratic reforms as well as an end to corruption. Cardinal Wu released a statement when martial law was imposed and also in the wake of the massacre. He called on China's Communist Party regime to end violent repression and asked Catholics in Hong Kong to pray for the victims. During the tragic events, Pope St. John Paul II also spoke about the killing of protesters and prayed for the Chinese people. Father Ha believes it is important that people learn from the values of the Beijing students who challenged the status quo 30 years ago. "The Church is not a political entity," Father Ha said. Rather, its mission was to help the faithful learn about social values and issues, he added. Clement Wong, a young Catholic, told ucanews.com that this month's Tiananmen Square exhibition showed the Church was full of humanity and "so bright" back in 1989.
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