The 20th Anniversary of June 4, 1989

By Michael DeGolyer

I got up well before 6 am that Sunday morning and began grading a stack of student papers.  Final exams started on the coming Tuesday, but everyone had been having an increasingly difficult time concentrating on their studies.  The tensions in Tiananmen Square had been building for weeks, and it was just as much an aurora of concern as much as the papers that had prodded me out of bed long before dawn.  This was before the Internet made instant news a matter of course and even before cable television brought world news at the press of a button.  The only alternative in Hong Kong then was either BBC World Service or RTHK Radio 3, the only two English language news channels available, and neither had a news program on when I woke up.  But at 6:00 am I could expect at least a few minutes update, and maybe I would find out then whether anything had happened in the square.

The news at 6 opened with sound files of bullets and screaming, then a voiceover of the announcer stating Chinese troops had cleared the square and there had been an unknown number of casualties, with reports still coming in.  After news bulletin, instead of music, the announcers kept the lines open for listeners to call in.  Some did with reports they had received by fax and phone.  Others simply responded to the events that had fastened all eyes on Beijing for weeks.  A week earlier vast crowds marched all over Hong Kong in support of the students.  I had watched thousands march past my balcony in Shatin, a New Town in the New Territories north of Central Hong Kong on the Kowloon Peninsula.  The center of Hong Kong had witnessed a massive march of great emotion.  And that morning, all morning, listeners called in, some crying, all deeply moved and many afraid for what this crackdown might mean for Hong Kong's future.  For we in Hong Kong were not mere observers, not just horrified onlookers.  Were we watching what the future rulers of Hong Kong would do to us if challenged too far?  The prospects for Hong Kong's handover to Chinese rule on 1 July 1997 appeared bleak.

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