…over the last couple of days, a friend sent me some emails casting back to earlier times in HongKong…I lived and worked there, off and on, for nearly twelve years during a 25-year stint in Asia…nostalgic emotion can often sneak up and catch us unawares…my mind was taken back to the first week in June 1989…and the terrible massacre of students in Beijing’s (formerly Peking’s) Tiananmen Square…you may recall the remarkable photograph of the man standing in front of the tank, with it’s huge gun-barrel swivelling this way and that… no-one knows for certain the fate of that brave soul…I watched the entire thing on live television in Hong Kong…I was married at the time to a Chinese lady, whose own parents had previously fled the clearances of the middle classes from Shanghai in 1949… she was visibly terrified by the images we were watching…I penned in one shot the poem below and sent it to the local English newspaper of the day, The South China Morning Post, who printed it with a black border round it…it was picked up and went around the world (this was well before the internet viral syndrome) …responses came in from foreign-based Chinese expat associations in places as far apart as Boston, San Francisco and Sydney, thanking me for the supportive expression, particularly as my name is obviously not Chinese…today I still wonder, whatever happened to that hero?…
TO THE FLOWERS OF TIANANMEN SQUARE
The chill of death came swiftly
To the flower of youth that morn.
But the seed will last forever,
From the slaughter, hope is born.
A world watched in horror
As their lifeblood flowed that day.
The memories of courage
Will never fade away
Soldiers, tanks and bullets
Cannot eclipse their roles.
They may burn the students’ bodies
But they cannot destroy their souls
Their voices now are silent
But will echo from the grave
To taunt at Man’s own madness
For those whom power crave.
In tears of grief and sorrow
For now, we share the pain.
But please, let us remember
‘Let them not have died in vain’.
Seumas Gallacher, Hong Kong, June 1989