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“Leaving and Scattering” – Chu Yiu-Ming broke his silence: One must be truthful and sincere; remainder of life dedicated to witnessing June 4th and witnessing Hong Kong

by Devin Tam

the English version is translated by Patrick May



“Without Victoria Park, do we not have the candlelight in our hearts?” The 80-year-old Reverend Chu Yiu-Ming asked rhetorically.


This day, the 35th anniversary of the June 4th massacre, Chu Yiu-Ming, founder of “Occupy Central”, and an active participant of “Operation Yellow Bird”, a planned rescue of democracy activists, an action that led to his exile from Hong Kong, arrived in Canada, and took part in the Vancouver Society in Support of Democratic Movement’s (VSSDM) 8:00 p.m. candlelight vigil, with thousands of candles illuminating Vancouver’s David Lam Park.


Chu said, “Thirty-five years, today’s Victoria Park has no candlelight, but a village association carnival; the government not only wants to forget, but to rewrite history, how can we forget?” Conscience and justice, as well as a respect for life, should give us the answer, “The candlelight in our hearts would never be extinguished, because we have our conscience, and our conscience would forbid us to forget.”


To leave and to scatter, Chu said, shedding tears, but his grandson exhorted him, “Do not cry!”


After the “Occupy Central” movement in 2014, the “Occupy Central Three”, Benny Tai Yiu-Ting, Chan Kin-Man, and Chu Yiu-Ming were respectively sentenced to 16-month imprisonment, with Chu receiving a two-year probation. In August of 2020, the pro-Chinese Tai Kung Po reports that the Taiwanese pastor who aided in smuggling out of Hong Kong the “12 Hong Kongers” involved in the ant-extradition movement, was a close acquaintance of Chu’s, which led to Chu’s closest comrades imploring upon him to leave the city, which brought him to the United States and then to Taiwan.


“And so, I became a member of those who left and are scattered, I often miss my sister, my many friends who are jailed, as well as many in Hong Kong.” He was frank in stating, “My brothers-in-arm are all incarcerated, was it right for me to leave? Should I not be walking along together with them?” But his comrades sincerely urged him not to risk returning to Hong Kong.


During his second year in Taiwan, he was diagnosed with acute cholecystitis, and during his hospital stay, the 75-year-old Mrs. Chu was charged with caring for him – changing him, washing his clothes, changing the bedsheets, and washing the bedsheets, among many other things. One night, Pastor Chu was speaking with his grandson over the internet, and broke down in tears; immediately his grandson spoke in a loud voice, “Grandpa, don’t cry! Be brave!” At that moment, he felt a great feeling of solace, “I knew that God was walking along with me.”


He added, “Am I to keep maintaining my silence?”


In the past two years, Chu Yiu-Ming have been leading a low profile existence, and had turned down many media request for interviews, as well as not appearing in any public function, but for this 35th anniversary of the June 4th massacre, “I have thought about this at length, am I to keep maintaining my silence?” He thought of Nobel Peace Prize winner and Nazi death camp survivor Elie Wiesel, who in his memoir Night, shared a conversation between a father and a son. The child asks the father, who had witnessed crimes of the massacre, what he is going to do. The father answers, “I would do my best to keep a living memory, to struggle to keep from forgetting anyone, because if we forget, we are the criminals, we are the accessory to the crime.”


On the 18th of last month, he travelled to Los Angeles for his granddaughter’s high school graduation, and had planned on returning to Taiwan on the 20th, but then he received invitations from VSSDM and the Toronto Association for Democracy in China to take part in their June 4th candlelight vigil. He explained that he already 80, and do not like flying, but he then thought of the Book of Esther, when the king ordered the extermination of all the Jews, but Queen Esther was asked to risk asking the king to repeal the order, “When you received the honour of being queen, is it not for an opportunity like this?” Inspired by this biblical passage, this elderly man decided to be silent no longer.


On the evening of June 2nd, Pastor Chu Yiu-Ming took part in a question-and-answer session on his memoirs, Confessions of a Bell Toller, hosted by VSSDM, with 250-plus participants. He recounted meeting the founder of the Tiananmen Mothers, Zhang Xianling, in Hong Kong, asking her how she was going to continue, given her advancing age? Zhang retorted that as long as she lived, she would continue the struggle. In 2015, he met the mother of democracy activist Zhang Jian. Zhang was hit in the leg by a bullet, and had to escape to France before even having the bullet removed, but died as an exile in 2019. “The bullet was removed, and you would think the pain is gone, but who would have known that he would die at 48 years old, can you imagine the mother’s pain?” He said this as he shared his recollect his meeting with the Tiananmen Mothers.


“Do not easily let go of this episode in history,” Chu Yiu-Ming said. A few years ago, there were some democracy activists who talked about forgiving. Lately, the Catholic Cardinal of Hong Kong Stephen Chow wrote in an essay that we could also learn to actively forgive. Chu asked himself, “What do I forgive?” No one could forgive on behalf of the families of those who were massacred, “Because we are not the sufferers, or the victims.” Today, even the numbers “64” have been banned, and families of the victims are still subject to constant surveillance, preventing them from even visiting their tombs. Chu said, “Even though they are subject to oppression, they are not alone, because we will walk with them; the candles we lit, to them, is a source of warmth, a sign of seeing all those who are walking with them.”


As he has now broken his silence, Chu was asked about his future plans. He said, “I can no longer do much, but I can and will continue to bear witness. I recently wrote an extended essay, remembering the 10th anniversary of Hong Kong’s “Umbrella Movement”, which is about to be published. Today, some are inviting me to speak about what Hong Kong is facing, including June 4th, and I would continue to talk about this to my last breath…while I am still living, my life would be dedicated to witnessing, to telling everyone what kind of government this is, and the suffering Hong Kong is going through.”


Today, many young people have remained in Hong Kong for various reasons, he was frank in saying that to see young people being persecuted, fills him with pain and anger, “Every time I see them detaining young people, arresting young people, I feel great sadness; we must use different channels to encourage (the young people), to exhort them to stand firm.”


To witness, to speak about June 4th, to speak the truth about Hong Kong today.


Chu Yiu-Ming said, when he signs autographs for his new book, he would invariably include the words, “Be truthful and sincere,” and encouraged us all to live in the truth, to refute any lie, to refuse anything that goes against reason and logic, “Everyone should, in his or her own way, stand in his or her post, to encourage one another, and not to weaken this resolve and conviction, and we would eventually coalesce into a unified force to be reckoned with.”


Even in the midst of suffering, Chu Yiu-Ming remains filled with hope, and recalled the eve of sentencing in the “Occupy Central” case, Cardinal Joseph Zen encouraged the “Occupy Central Three”, to face adversity with a smile, “To think of Jesus Christ on the road to Calvary, to be nailed to the cross, and to be resurrected on the third day. This is our hope; no government, no force of evil, would last forever, history tells us that, dictatorships would be destroyed, we do not know when, but they would not last forever. And so, we must all nourish ourselves to maintain our sense of justice, to bring about peace in the world, to bring justice to our society, to bring peace to mankind, harmony to families, we must maintain this conviction, and courageously walk forward without fear. Justice will eventually manifest itself.”

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