June 4th and the man behind Tank Man

I attended the massive annual candlelight vigil for the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Masscare (aka “the June 4 incident”) on, well, the 4th of June in Victoria Park.

I know friends and colleagues who invariably attend every year. I started off being apathetic, then in the last couple of years started being interested but either busy or out of town or…just complaining that it’s too hot. Like most things in life, this year I just decided I should stop making excuses and go.

Yes, it was hot. I’ve never been to any sort of vigil or memorial event before but it was more or less what I expected. I didn’t much care for the political messages – I personally just wanted China to stop denying history. Although that is of course naive on my part. The people died for a social and political cause and China is censoring the entire event for political reasons. But hey, I’m the last person you’ll want to talk to about politics and everyone were there for their own reasons.

The Man behind Tank ManThen a friend found out about a talk and exhibition in HKU by Jeff Widener, the photograher who took the iconic Tank Man shot. Another first for me, and not entirely an artsy person, I doubted my interest but was intrigued. And you know what, Jeff Widener was a funny and engaging speaker. All he really had was a laptop with some photos on it which he simply just opened one by one, sometimes stumbling over which button to press or finding a photo or two out of order. Perhaps I’m too used to glossy corporate presentations and arsey corporate speak, but I find his no-frills tell-you-like-it-is style very refreshing. It didn’t hurt that he’s lived a life and career full of mishaps, luck, and adventure and could’ve gone on telling stories well beyond his allotted time.

The passion that people still have to make their voices heard for an event that occurred 25 years ago, and the passion for photo-journalism that Jeff Widener showed in his talk is quite emboldening. Living in Hong Kong, in very easy to fall into a routine and just go through the paces every day – a life that may be safe and comfortable, but lacking in fire. Or maybe, I’m just speaking for myself.

 

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