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2013年06月04日

Is the Remembrance of June 4 really Relevant to Hong Kong People?
(Associate Professor in Division of Social Science,The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Sing Ming) - Sing Ming

支聯會多年來一直堅持平反八九民運。 資料圖片

When I discuss the relevance of universal suffrage with my students, some replied: "it is hard to understand the relevance of universal suffrage for Hongkongese in a few words." Actually, what they thought is untrue. One obvious implication of universal suffrage for Hongkongese and, in fact, for human beings can be gleaned by considering the case of June 4 massacre.
Many Hong Kong people know that in 1989, a massacre happened in Tiananmen Square. Some of us also realize that massacres also occurred in Taiwan during late 1940s, in South Korea in 1980, as well as in Rwanda in 1994. What some Hongkongese may not know is the terrifying scale and prevalence of those state-led massacres throughout the 20th century.
According to the decades-long research of Professor Rummel, from 1900 to 1999, 174 million people were murdered by their own governments. "If all these bodies were laid head to toe, with the average height being 5', then they would circle the earth ten times. Also, such government-led massacres murdered 6 times more people than that died in combat in all the foreign and internal wars of the century (endnote 1)."
Based on a top journal in political science, between 1955 and 2001, state-led massacres have occurred far more common in nearly every continent than what HK people have imagined (Endnote 2):
Those state-led massacres have been triggered by leaders' attempt to wipe out the dissidents, or even potential dissidents. In Cambodia alone, for example, its dictator in 1970s murdered 20-25% of the entire national population, especially the more educated citizens, simply because the latter were suspected of having greater likelihood to disobey the dictator. In addition, a number of mass murders were related to ethnic cleansing.
The same research finds that in China that between 1950 and 2001, three major large-scale state-led massacres were carried out. The first happened in 1950-51 after the Communists took power, the second in Tibet in 1959, and the last one during the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1975.
The research concludes that "unless the Chinese government becomes more willing to accommodate national minorities and unauthorized religious sects, the risk remains that repression may escalate into policies aimed at eliminating the offending groups."

Fortunately, many scholars find that democratic countries with universal suffrage are far less likely to have committed such massacres of their own citizens than other forms of government. The key explanation is that democracies tend to diffuse power, and provide far better checks and balances, making such large-scale killings far less likely. In order to prevent the recurrence of similar tragedies like Tiananmen Square in Mainland China, Hong Kong or any part of the world, implementing universal suffrage then becomes a must.
If we do not have genuine universal suffrage in Mainland China or Hong Kong, they simply lack a crucial institution to defend a fundamental human right (right to survive), and against the most brutal form of crime against humanity. Against this context, one cannot help finding the following remarks of leaders in Hong Kong absurd and irresponsible:
CY Leung: Deng Xiaoping should get Nobel Peace Prize (despite that he masterminded the massacre in 1989).
Donald Tsang (in his response to legislators' question of whether he would support redressing Beijing's verdict on June 4 of 1989) , he said "I understand Hong Kong people's feelings about June 4, but the incident happened many years ago. The Country's development in many areas has since achieved tremendous results and brought economic prosperity to Hong Kong," Tsang said his view represented the public stance.
Remembering June 4 tragedy is not only looking backward, aiming at restoring justice against the wrong-doers. The remembrance should also keep reminding us the utmost importance of building universal suffrage in Hong Kong, Mainland China and everywhere in the world for defending the humanity against the most brutal crime in the world.


Endnote:
1. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/20TH.HTM
2. Harff, B. (2003). "No lessons learned from the Holocaust? Assessing risks of genocide and political mass murder since 1955." American Political Science Review 97(1): 57-73.

Sing Ming
Associate Professor in Division of Social Science,The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

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