Sunday October 20, 2019

THE TIANANMEN SQUARE MASSACRE: 25 YEARS LATER

JUNE 5TH, 2014

June 4th, 2014, marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. Also called the June 4th Massacre or June 4th Crackdown,  the protests and their suppression  remain taboo subjects throughout China to this day.

One notable event sparked the student-led demonstrations that occurred in Tiananmen Square, Beijing in the spring of 1989. Former Communist Party General Secretary, Hu Yaobang,  passed away from a heart attack on April 15th of that year.  According to an article in CNN, before his death, Hu Yaobang “worked with Deng [Xiaoping] to consolidate power and move China toward a more open political system, becoming a symbol of democratic reform” before falling out of the regime’s favor and being forced to resign. University students gathered in the Square to mourn Hu Yaobang’s death and to protest for a multitude of reasons. They called for freedom of speech and the press, for democracy, and for government accountability and transparency.  Students and other civilians gathered in Tiananmen Square, with more and more joining until an estimated million people were part of the demonstration. Across the country, people joined the cause of the students in Tiananmen Square by demonstrating in their own cities. People demonstrated by means of sit-in protests and hunger strikes, calling for the Chinese government to acquiesce to their requests. It is important to keep in mind that there was not one explicitly defined request; the protests represent the feelings of a society at large, and a generation tired of silence, oppression, and an absence of freedom.

Ultimately, the Chinese government declared martial law on May 20th and troops entered Beijing. Many attempted to block the troops from entering, but to no avail. Upon reaching Tiananmen Square, troops opened fire and the day was marked by bloodshed. Many lives were lost. The exact death toll has never been confirmed, but estimates range from several hundred to several thousand.

Around the world, the incidents of June 4, 1989, in Tiananmen Square were considered a tragedy. However, even 25 years later, the incident remains a taboo subject online and in public all over China. The Chinese government has taken precautions to stifle dissent that may arise as a result of the upcoming anniversary.

According to an article published in Reuters, “The run-up to the anniversary has been marked by detentions, increased security in Beijing and tighter controls on the Internet, including disruption of Google services.”

CNN article confirms “censors draw the line at any direct mention of the tragic crackdown. Searches for ‘June 4,’ ‘Tiananmen Square,’ and ‘Zhao Ziyang’ (an official who was seen as sympathetic to the student protestors) yield nothing. “Greatfire.org, a website that monitors China’s censorship, has been providing updates on censorship development surrounding the anniversary. They confirmed that all Google services, including Google images, translation, and search, have now been blocked. The censorship surrounding the June 4th anniversary is more extensive than in years previous, and some speculate that from now on Google may be permanently blocked in China.

Chinese activists have also spoken up about the upcoming anniversary. USA Today confirms that Guo Jian, Chinese-born Australian artist and “former protester in China’s pro-democracy movement, was detained by authorities after a profile of him appeared in this past weekend’s Financial Times. . . the artist, previously a soldier, said he will be held until June 15.”

Chinese political dissident and activist, Chen Guangcheng, delivered a speech on Tuesday regarding the approaching anniversary at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C. Mr. Chen expressed his feelings that the students’ fight for democracy and freedom was commendable and that the suppression of these protests was “a violation of human rights.” Chen Guangcheng believes the Chinese government has not “admitted their evils” and went on to say, “A government that cannot face its own history is a government without a  future.”

The Tiananmen Square protests and massacre made a big impact around the world, but the pro-democracy movement is not taught in schools and is heavily censored on the internet. This makes it very difficult for today’s generation of Chinese civilians to learn about the incident that shocked the world. NPR correspondent Louisa Lim believes, “Young people have very little idea what happened in 1989 and very little curiosity or interest”–a sentiment many agree with.

While the Chinese government works to prohibit its citizens from learning more about the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989, people around the world have not forgotten.  For example, a candlelight vigil was held in Victoria Park in Hong Kong on Wednesday night to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the incident. Tens of thousands of people attended. They refuse to forget.

For more information on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, see the following news articles:

Reuters-“China defends Tiananmen crackdown on eve of 25th anniversary”

USA Today-“Google’s China services disrupted before anniversary”

USA Today-“Chinese dare recall Tiananmen Square massacre”

CNN“Twenty-five years later, Tiananmen Square no less taboo for China’s censors”

New York Times-“China Escalating Attack on Google”

ABC-“25 years on, Tiananmen Barely Known to China Youth”

Chen Guangcheng’s Speech-“Twenty-Five Years After Tiananmen: China’s Fight for Human Rights”

Greatfire.org-“Tiananmen incident on the eve of Google is blocked; mirror site offers uncensored access”

NPR-“25 Years After Tiananmen Protests, Chinese Media Keep It Quiet”

 

Compiled and edited by Erin Monroe