June Fourth Angst UnsettledBack

Robert Ting-Yiu Chung
(Director of Public Opinion Programme, the University of Hong Kong)
Translation assisted by Calvin Chun-Kit Chan
(Research Executive, Public Opinion Programme, the University of Hong Kong)

Note: This article represents the view of the author and not the University of Hong Kong.


Every year I commemorate June 4. In recent years, I have one more company - my little daughter.


A reporter asked me: "Aren't you worried losing your image of impartiality by joining the vigil?" As a journalist, she would be happy to report on the spot. Off-duty, she was afraid that joining the vigil would scathe her professional image.


To me, June 4 represents a cardinal principle of right and wrong. If we should mourn for the health-care workers who died for us, why shouldn't we equally pay tribute to our June 4 heroes? Is it because the coffins of our medical workers were covered with our SAR flag, while our compatriots who died in June 4 left nothing behind but their spirit of rectitude? God knows whose death is more weighty and respectable.


As a researcher, I must strive to remain objective, unbiased and impartial. However, I am also only flesh and blood, and when facing the ultimate question of black and white, I have to follow my own conscience. There is no time for me to be pretentious, and to strike a balance just for balance's sake.


Nevertheless, there must be a "clear distinction" between objective research and subjective commentaries. The ultimate guarantee is to show the study in full, and let the public decide. I must declare that the survey findings do not appeal to my wish, but as an opinion researcher, I have the responsibility to describe the facts. History has given me this complex, only history can take it away.


According to the latest survey findings of the HKU Public Opinion Programme, 46% of Hong Kong people surveyed said the Beijing students had done the right thing, 62% said the Chinese Government had mishandled the incident. Besides, 47% supported a reversion of the official stand on the incident, while 43% were against the disbanding of the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China. These simple indicators had not changed much over the past few years.


The cause and effect of the June 4 Incident are directly related to China's human right condition, while Hong Kong people's self-defined position is also a vital factor. The figures showed that 80% of the respondents believed the human right condition in China has improved since 1989, 70% said Hong Kong people have a responsibility to instigate the development of democracy in China. However, relatively more people believed that economic development should be of higher priority to China.


I could not agree to these views, but I do understand the public mood. China's evolvement to become a true democracy cannot be sustained by a few dissidents, nor would it come about because we Hong Kong people chanted the June 4 slogan a few times every year. A wake-up call is needed to our compatriots, to the leaders of our motherland, and so much the better, also to our SAR leadership: that democracy is no monster. Of course, democracy cannot be an all-time cure, but without democracy, there would not be any peaceful transfer of power, and public anger cannot be vented. Aren't China during the June 4 Incident, and Hong Kong after the handover, two vivid examples?


Fourteen years have elapsed since June 4, many people have chosen to rid themselves of it. The much-detested so-called "Deng, Li and Yang Company" has already joined the many historic vestiges. Many who once yelled "Down with Li Peng" have now become his acquaintances. Luckily I am not a politician, so I have no chance meeting Li, and I would simply despise those who lobby me to forget June 4. Nonetheless, I would not ask for a reversion of the June verdict by our newly appointed national leaders, because they are also victims of the same system.


As China develops, the June 4 Complex will, in due course, untie itself. By then, when we look back at the controversy over Article 23 of the Basic Law, the call for the general election of our Chief Executive, and even the interpretation of "one country, two systems", there will be nothing more than a simple laugh.

Table: Do you support a reversion of the official stand on the June 4 Incident?
Date of survey Yes No Don't know / Hard to say
15-20/5/2003 47% 24% 29%
14-16/5/2002 39% 27% 34%
25-29/5/2001 40% 26% 33%
30-31/5/2000 47% 22% 31%
24/5/1999 46% 22% 33%
26/5/1998 49% 19% 33%
27/5/1997 50% 19% 31%