And you can't speak of Tiananmen


Every year on June 4th, Hong Kong remembers the tragic 1989 massacre which took place at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China after a string of student-led protests asking for freedom of press and speech. The protests turned into a blood bath when troops with assault rifles and tanks opened fire on unarmed civilians trying to block the military advance on Tiananmen Square. To this day the death toll is uncertain and the event is still suppressed by Chinese authorities. I went to the annual memorial which took place in Causeway bay’s Victoria park back in 2014, the same year as the Umbrella Revolution which followed a few months after, with the intention of capturing the many candles and dimly lit faces illuminated in remembrance and relevance, but as the event came to an end and the crowds began to trickle away, the stark artificial lights flooded the courts and exposed the remnants of wax clinging onto the ground beneath them. Evidence of what had just taken place. What caught my attention were the many bodies, hunched over these stubborn puddles of wax, scraping at them with focus and intent. These bodies were members of the public probably simply keeping their city clean but I couldn’t help but see it as a metaphor for the importance of the massacre itself, both past and present. The act of remembering this day every year only to erase its memory over and over again, scraping at the wax we just moments ago, intently held high asking for freedom, change and remembrance and tomorrow we step all over those shadows, continually creating and actively erasing our own history.


Tiananmen
by James Fenton


Tiananmen
Is broad and clean
And you can’t tell
Where the dead have been
And you can’t tell
What happened then
And you can’t speak
Of Tiananmen.


You must not speak.
You must not think.
You must not dip
Your brush in ink.
You must not say
What happened then,
What happened there.
What happened there
In Tiananmen.


The cruel men
Are old and deaf
Ready to kill
But short of breath
And they will die
Like other men
And they’ll lie in state
In Tiananmen.


They lie in state.
They lie in style.
Another lie’s
Thrown on the pile,
Thrown on the pile
By the cruel men
To cleanse the blood
From Tiananmen.


Truth is a secret.
Keep it dark.
Keep it dark.
In our heart of hearts.
Keep it dark
Till you know when
Truth may return
To Tiananmen.


Tiananmen
Is broad and clean
And you can’t tell
Where the dead have been
And you can’t tell
When they’ll come again.
They’ll come again
To Tiananmen.


Hong Kong, 15 June 1989

Open

Demonstrators gather to attend a candlelight vigil in  Victoria Park, creating a blur of lights to remember the Tiananmen massacre of June 4th, 1989

Open

An attendant has a contemplative moment 

Open

A student bends over in focus, determined to clear any remnants of wax

Open

A symbol of truth burns bright against the artificially lit metropolis of Hong Kong 

Open

A participant bends down to blow out a light of the past and a symbol of the present 

Open

The remnants of the vigil  

Open

Candles held high in remembrance at Hong Kong's Victoria Park

Open

Students now scrap at the candle wax remembering their fellow students that spoke out for democracy in Tiananmen in 1989 

Open

The city of "one country and two systems" is one of the only places in China to hold a vigil for the 1989 massacre in Tiananmen Square

Open

A man scrapes off candle wax with one hand while clutching a flower representing the ghosts of the past 

Open

Memorial attendants exit the Victoria Park courts as the stark overhead lights replace the unified candles raised moments before

Open

A footprint in wax, now a mere memory 

Open

Participants, many of them students, begin scratching at the wax stubbornly left behind 

Open

Members of the public clear the Victoria Park courts with the white statue of the Goddess of Democracy looking on in the background 

Open

A single man still tries to clear the grounds as the courts in Causeway Bay become emptier and emptier 

Open

In recent years, less and less people in Hong Kong have attended the vigil as the memory of the event begins to fade with the coming of years

Open

Candle wax and water. A splatter of time still remains

Close
Using Format