Today, a very omnipotent-sounding group called the 天安門母親(“Mothers of the Heavenly Gate”) only stayed for one hour at TianAnMen Square (天安門廣場). You can read a heart-wrenching story from one mother’s perspective at NPR:
Usually, whenever Western countries wants to paint a bad picture of China, this is the first thought that comes to mind: A heartless monolithic machine that doesn’t care much for its own people. The 1989 student massacre expemlifies this, and is easy to conjure up the red scare. However, 25 years later, the only people who mention this even in America is few and far between. Most people are afraid of China’s military might for different reasons. In fact, most Chinese will actually defend the government’s actions by saying that America has had its fair share of crowd massacres:
- The massacre of the Bonus Army of 1932, where World War One veterans were requesting to receive their pomised bonus money early.
- The Kent State University Massacre of 1970, on students protesting the VietNam War
America would argue that since then, it has learned alot about crowd control and is better equipped, and better trained to handle such situations. Some would even add the arguement that they were different times, and the moral standards were different then, from what they are now. What they are doing is completely bypassing the issue at hand:
- the economic concerns of the Bonus Army protesters
- the war against Vietnam, where America was still putting men through the draft to fight a war they didn’t believe in
By brushing aside what has happened in these two instances means that the US will never bother to address any of the concerns of what is wrong with its own policies. This is exactly what is happening with China today, whenever it denies the June 4 massacre on the university students. This is probably why you didn’t hear much from US First Lady, Michelle Obama during her last trip to China, and her lack of calling out China for detaining political dissidents who spoke out their mind. Now, I’m not advocating for Michelle Obama to act like Hillary Clinton, when she was first lady, and call them out directly, while later as secretary of state didn’t live up to human rights expectations. Of course we would never expect a residing president or anyone in his cabinet to address any of America’s own spotted record on human rights. But there are ways to address human rights concerns much more tactifully, and we haven’t seen that recently.
After 25 years, America’s silence on the issue is showing that it has very little high ground to criticize China over this issue, and it would much rather use China to help bolster trade, and make its own economic numbers look good. In fact, with the Communist Peoples’ Republic of China’s former main rival, the Nationalist Republic of China, you don’t hear much of a noise from them about the incident either. This is because, ever since the End of the Chinese Civil War, where the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, they were surrounded by Taiwanese locals, and rather than create a counter-attack base to go back onto the mainland, they had enough trouble keeping themselves legimately in control of the very island they had retreated to. As a result, the local inhabitants grew up in a de jure independent status away from the rest of the mainland. However, there is one place where there are still candlelights lit up for the students who died in 1989: Hong Kong.
Although Hong Kong is now a Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic, and has been fighting for its very soul ever since the handover in 1997.1. Every decision BeiJing makes inadvertantly affects Hong Kong. Even though Hong Kong was promised 50 years of no change (「五十年不變」), this promise has been broken time and again. Hong Kong people have felt their every day lives encroached upon by China. First is the massive hoarde of mainland Chinese tourists doesn’t help. Then, because the Chief Executive, 梁振英(Leung, Chun-Ying) was nominated by the cental government in BeiJing to the position, he naturally is inclined to serve the needs of BeiJing, without any recourse from the local Hong Kong population, which has either directly indirectly affected Hong Kong in many areas, including influencing Hong Kong’s Freedom of Speech, exemplified in the knifing of a Hong Kong newspaper editor.
While Taiwan has lived in an relatively independent bubble, it hasn’t felt as if China has had a real influence on the island. Hong Kong on the other hand, feels every little move China makes, and is very much afraid of it. To them, it’s “BeiJing, 25 years ago. Slowly, it’s Hong Kong today.” For Taiwan, it wasn’t until student protest and occupation of its legislature for 23 days, that brought a bit of international attention to what China was doing in the region, with its secretive cross-strait trade pact that the now pro-China Nationalist politicians and the President were pushing for. Many of the Taiwanese students’ major slogans was “我們不想變成下一個香港” (“We don’t want to become the next Hong Kong”), which meant that it wasn’t until this trade bill, that they felt they were directly affected by mainland China. This, despite the fact that it has long been China’s stated goal to take over Taiwan through whatever means possible, including coercing it economically.
All the 天安門母親(“Mothers of the Heavenly Gate”) want is closure for the death of their children, and an acknowledgement by the central government, that they had made a mistake. But the government’s tone today remains that the students were committing a treacherous act against them, and had to be put down. Hong Kong and Taiwan are fighting for much more than that, they are fighting for the ability to lead ther own future without the fear of BeiJing’s reprisal.
COROLLARY: June 7, 2014
A little late on this, but I want to thank Mr. Joshua Stanton, for providing a link to William Wan‘s article last year at the Washington Post, “Witnesses to Tiananmen Square Struggle With What to Tell Their Children”. The story of Qi, Zhiyong losing his leg on that day, already makes him a hero in my books. The way the article compares and contrasts how he and his former compatriots deal with the incident is very much telling, not just of Hong Kong’s current situation, and how BeiJing divides it. But how all repressive governments continue to use such tactics.
Here’s a story of 方正（Fang, Zheng） who also lost his limbs in the massacre:
Here’s is a perfect description of the way the government was clamping down on activity at TianAnMen Square leading up to June 4:
In fact, whenever you hear talk about Uighur terrorists, it’s not hard to imagine the way the central government is treating the Uighurs in XinJiang is probably no different than it was 25 years ago in BeiJing:
Mr. Rigby also recounts his reactions to the story, and what it means for today’s generation:
Tom Baxter introduced a good book on the state’s program to keep a tight lid on the massacre by jailing intellectuals, called “The Peoples’ Republic of Amnesia” by Louisa Lim:
Blocked on Weibo has a comprehensive list of words banned by the authorities:
China Change has kept a good documentation on who has been arrested leading up to and after June 4:
3 ultimately freed after June 4:
滕彪 (Teng, Biao), a human rights activist makes his speech in Hong Kong, despite threats of losing his job at the University:
English translation of the speech provided here…
Peter Lee makes an apt connection from Tiananmen of 1989 to Ukraine today:
Includes a video that’s hard to watch, but I agree, it needs to be watched.
Here are some old photos of the event from 1989:
BeiJing Cream introduces a witty picture taken the morning of June 4 this year, that went viral:
COROLLARY: June 8, 2014
Mr. Willy Lam wrote an excellent article regarding the implications June 4 has:
He manages to contrast current Chinese narratives and actions on June 4. Presenting a good argument on how Deng, Xiao-Ping’s actions towards reforming the party and state prior to 1989, was completely undermined by his decision to shoot the students in 1989.
There have been various protests over things that range from, protests over why mainland Chinese tourists can take pictures, yet local Hong Kong journalists are prohibitted, to peeing on the streets, to mainland Chinese disrespecting Hong Kong people, or just straight up to how mainland China isn’t allowing local Hong Kong people to directly vote in their Chief Executive, which may also be interpreted as Hong Kong people being angry that BeiJing is allowing the cronies before the 1997 takeover to continually mismanage the country, so that the central government can look that much better and come in one fell swoop like the President of China, Xi, Jin-Ping is doing with his anti-corruption campaigns.