The 30th Anniversary Of The Tiananmen Square Massacre

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Currents News Staff

Thirty years later, it’s an event most remembered by the lasting images it produced. Tiananmen Square packed for weeks with demonstrators calling for a more democratic government, and on surrounding streets, the subsequent chaos and violence.

The fires, the tanks, the gunshots – hundreds if not thousands were killed as the government sent in troops to shut down the protests. An official death toll was never released.
For those who were there on June 4, 1989, the memories remain fresh.

Every now and then, several men get together in Beijing. They all protested in Tiananmen and spent about 15 years in prison because of it. It’s come to define the remainder of their lives.

“Average people in China only have a very basic awareness of what happened. People have already forgotten it,โ€ said Dong Shengkun, who protested in Tiananmen Square.

School children are not taught about it. It’s not mentioned in their textbooks. There are no memorials to remember those who died. On Chinese internet, anything about the pro-democracy protests is censored.

For all the witnesses and all the horrific pictures, China’s government pretends a seminal event of the 20th century didn’t exist.

Asked last week about the military’s role in the event, a defense ministry spokesman would only say “our stability and achievements have already addressed your question.”

Once they mention it, it’s very possible that the legitimacy of their regime will be threatened.

Fang Zheng protested in the square and lost his legs after being run over by a tank. He says China’s ruling communist party wants to stay in power more than anything else, and talking about what happened could undermine the Chinese public’s confidence in party leaders. Erasing a government atrocity from history is in its interest.

“And in the recent years under the rule of president Xi Jinping, the political situation has become harsher,โ€ said Zheng.

Zheng and other critics say not talking about what happened in Tiananmen is right in line with the increased repression in China recently.

Hundreds of human rights lawyers arrested. Extrajudicial imprisonment of dissidents. Increased censorship of the media and the internet. The mass detention of ethnic Muslim minorities. China denies all of that, but they are all things designed to exert control and quash dissent. Done by a government, critics say, whose biggest fear is a repeat of what happened in 1989.

Many in the west thought China would democratize after what happened in Tiananmen square. It didn’t.

Perhaps the most well-known scene from the events of 30 years ago is a man, alone, walking in front of a column of military tanks, trying to stop their advance. He’s paid homage right now at an exhibit in Taiwan.