By Hu Tu, Progressive Lawyers Group
As an immigrant under Hong Kong’s “Mainland Talent and Professionals” scheme (內地人才計劃), on the day I obtained Hong Kong permanent residency, I felt as though I could breathe more easily.
Unless you have lived in the place I grew up and received most of my education – the Mainland – you will not appreciate the immense sense of relief I felt “escaping” from a country plagued with lies.
A political turmoil in 1989
I was in kindergarten in 1989. The only memory I had of June 4 came from Hong Kong news, which my family was able to watch through a satellite dish secretly installed on our roof. The dead bodies on television gave me nightmares for days.
In my secondary school, June 4 was brushed over in the history textbooks in literally half a sentence – “a political turmoil in 1989 as spring turned to summer”. Not even the month or date was mentioned. This “political turmoil” was, naturally, not an exam topic, so there was no reason to teach or speak of it. My childhood memory of the incident gradually started to fade.
It was not until a few years ago, when I came to study at the University of Hong Kong, that the truth dawned on me. I saw this vivid description in a book I picked up at the university library by the Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng entitled The Political Struggle of China’s Reform Era:
“At 6 a.m. this morning near the Telegraph Building, a tank was heading in a westward direction. The people on the street were chanting slogans and singing. The tank suddenly headed at full steam towards the students. Because there was tear gas, the students could not open their eyes; there were barricades behind them so they could neither retreat nor escape. After the tanks ploughed through the crowd, there were eleven dead bodies. There was blood coming out of the first body I saw; the head was squashed. The other bodies were all squashed, although I did not see any blood coming out of those.”
That led to my first attendance of the June 4 candlelight vigil at the Victoria Park in Hong Kong – I who grew up in the “People’s Republic” and who never had the chance to exercise my constitutional right of demonstration and assembly. Amidst the ocean of candlelight, and the spontaneous chorus of the song “Flower of Freedom” (自由花) by tens of thousands of people, I was hit with mixed emotions of joy and sorrow – I had lived in a web of lies for over 20 years, but I was now living in Hong Kong, the only place in China where the truth could still be told.
Young people think that June 4 is a mining accident
George Orwell warned in his book 1984 how authoritarian regimes employ lies to rule. In Orwell’s dystopia, the department responsible for the fabricating lies is called the “Ministry of Truth”, while the department responsible for deploying the Thought Police and eliminating dissidents is called “Ministry of Love”. The state’s most ingenious measure is the invention of “Newspeak”, a new language, which has the effect of limiting the expression and conceptualisation of any disobedient or rebellious thoughts. It is introduced to replace English and to serve as the ultimate linguistic tool to eliminate any threat to the regime.
“A political turmoil in 1989 as spring turned to summer” is only one of the many lies manufactured in the Mainland by the “Ministry of Truth”.
Yet this lie may soon prevail. The younger generation of mainlanders who did not experience June 4 firsthand have no clue what June 4 was – just like I used to have no idea.
A few years back, an advertisement appeared in the classified ad section of the Chengdu Evening Post on the day of the June 4 anniversary: “Our deepest respect to the resolute surviving mothers of June 4”. The only reason this advertisement got past the censors was because the young woman responsible for reviewing classified had never heard of June 4. She called a friend to ask, and was told that “June 4” was probably a mining accident.
Ministry of Truth teaches Hong Kong people about democracy
Now this lying regime has put on a righteous face to lecture Hong Kong people about what democracy and universal suffrage mean.
Why is the plain wording of the Basic Law (Hong Kong’s mini-constitution) not enough, and why must the Hong Kong people “re-educate themselves as to the correct meaning of the Basic Law”, as the Central Government proclaims? Because only the interpretation of the “Ministry of Truth” can count as the truth.
It is said that “the old cannot kill the young forever”. But lies are even more powerful than guns and tanks. Will democracy ever prevail, if the young continue to be fooled by the lies of the Ministry of Truth?
Hu Tu is a lawyer in Hong Kong who grew up in the Mainland. Because his family still lives in the Mainland, his name has been changed to protect his identity.
Article was originally published in Stand News on 3 June 2015