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

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