Wednesday, 6 June 2012

A Peace Memorial Day for former political detainees? Examples from Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong

Rest in peace. Dr. Lim Hock Siew.

A peace Memorial Day in Singapore? It looks as remote as Singapore always takes a slow step in human rights.  In addition, the PAP government has successfully prevented it to be an international issue despite we have the longest political prison without trial in the world.  Furthermore, our Western democratic friendly countries, like USA and European countries, do not object strongly on the human rights record of Singapore.   

If there is any change to take place, it has to come within Singapore no matter how slow it is. The successful organization of Remembering 1987 can be a first step but it needs more awareness and supports from all Singaporeans.
Looking forward, let look at some examples in Taiwan, South Korea and Hong Kong.   

The 228 Incident of Taiwan 1947
The 228 Incident, also known as the228 Massacre, was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began on February 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. Estimates of the number of deaths vary from 10,000 to 30,000 or more.[1][2] The incident marked the beginning of the Kuomintang's White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. The number "228" refers to the day the massacre began: February 28, or 02-28.

Every February 28, the president of the ROC gathers with other officials to ring a commemorative bell in memory of the victims. The president bows to family members of 2-28 victims and gives each one a certificate officially declaring the family innocent of any crime. Monuments and memorial parks to the victims of 2-28 have been erected in a number of Taiwanese cities, including Kaohsiung and Taipei.[3][4]
Today the National 228 Memorial Museum located at No. 54 Nanhai Road in Taipei memorializes the event. The museum opened February 28, 2011.

The Kaohsiung Incident of Taiwan 1979
The Kaohsiung Incident also known as the Formosa Incident, the Meilidao Incident or the Formosa Magazine incident [1][2] was the result of pro-democracy demonstrations that occurred in Kaohsiung,Taiwan on December 10, 1979.
The incident occurred when Formosa Magazine, headed by veteran opposition Legislative Yuan Legislator Huang Shin-chieh (黃信介), and other opposition politicians held a demonstration commemorating Human Rights Day in an effort to promote and demand democracy in Taiwan.[3] At that time, the Republic was a one-party state and the government used this protest as an excuse to arrest the main leaders of the political opposition. Kaohsiung Incident is well-recognized as a critical and important event in the post-war history of Taiwan and regarded as the watershed of the Taiwan democratization movements [4]. The event had the effect of galvanizing the Taiwanese community into political actions and regarded as one of the events that eventually led to democracy in Taiwan.

Gwangju Massacre of South Korea 1980
The Gwangju Democratization Movement (Hangul: 광주 민주화운동,Hanja: 光州民主化運動RR: Gwangju Minju-hwa Undong) or Gwangju Uprising refers to a popular uprising in the city of Gwangju, South Korea from May 18 to 27, 1980. During this period, citizens rose up against Chun Doo-hwan and took control of the city. In the course of the uprising, citizens took up arms (by robbing police stations and military depots) to oppose the government, but were ultimately crushed by the South Korean army. The event is sometimes called 518, in reference to the date the uprising began.

During Chun Doo-hwan's presidency, the incident was represented as a rebellion inspired by Communist sympathizers. By 2002, a national cemetery and day of commemoration (May 18), along with acts to "compensate, and restore honor" to victims, were established.[1]

Peaceful and civilized remembering of June 4 in Hong Kong.
Tens of thousands of people gathered for a candlelight vigil on a humid night in Hong Kongto remember victims of the government crackdown at Tiananmen Square 23 years ago and demand freedom to protest in mainland China.

Even though remembering June 4 is not an official memorial day, the Hong Kong people have gathered at Victoria Park every year to mark this special day.  As capitalist as Singapore, even without the full election system and voting rights, Hong Kong people have stood up to remember victims of June 4.  Not to forget Hong Kong is now part of China!
Without violence, without blood and without official recognition, this is one of the most civilized and powerful demonstrations of human rights in the world.

How big is the turnout this year? It is estimated to be more than 180,000 people, young and old, local and foreign, occupying 6 football fields, few more basketball courts and assembly areas. If you compare it with the PAP rally in GE, it is not even one-third full of a stadium.  Even the WP rally cannot match it.

In Singapore, it may take years to get a huge public support for the ISA issue. However, we see encouragements from the GE2011 and the recent Hougang BE.  The silent majority may appear sooner than expected. 

The Hong Kong memorial demonstration of June 4 can be a good example for Singapore. We want a steady, organized and smooth transition from a one-party state to a two-party or multi-party country.   The memorial protest has not affected Hong Kong economy and its society.  Instead it teaches the young the value of mankind and the respect of human rights.

Let’s light up a candle to remember Dr. Lim Hock Siew and other patriots who have left a mark in Singapore history.  Without their sacrifices, the sky of Singapore is not as bright as others.   

June 4 2012 in Hong Kong 

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