Tiananmen Square and the Death of Freedom

Tiananmen Square and the Death of Freedom

Tiananmen Square and the Death of Freedom

This week we’ll mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day, which began Europe’s liberation during World War II. But it’s also the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing. On June 4, 1989, a despotic regime slaughtered an unknown number of Chinese citizens who merely sought freedom.

In the months leading up to June 4, thousands of pro-democracy protestors, mainly students, had occupied Tiananmen Square in Beijing. However, demonstrations weren’t just in Beijing — students were also protesting in over 400 cities throughout China. All were demanding respect for human rights and greater participation in politics — things that we in the United States sadly take for granted. But the time was right — then-President Deng Xiaoping had initiated economic reforms in China. So why not human rights and freedom?

In only three days the students quickly built a statue called the “Goddess of Democracy,” which faced the portrait of Mao Zedong at the Tiananmen Gate. Originally styled to be male, she stood over 30 feet high, an impressive figure. Moreover, the artists used our Statue of Liberty as reference, with both hands holding the iconic torch.

At her dedication, the students inaugurated her with this statement:

“Although the God of Democracy, sculpted in plaster, cannot be preserved forever – we believe the darkness will pass and the dawn will come.”

“We strongly believe that when true democracy comes, we will come back to the square to stand up a grand, huge and permanent God of Democracy. This day will come. The Chinese people will forever put the God of Democracy in our hearts.”

What a great time for these students to be alive!

Tiananmen square

Reproduction of Goddess of Liberty in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Credit: Wayne Hsieh @ flickr. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But their dreams came to a brutal end in the wee hours of June 4. The Chinese Communist government sent in armed troops and tanks into Tiananmen Square. They arrested leaders and slaughtered others. Even to this day, no one is sure how many died — some say the death toll was in the hundreds; others, up to 10,000.

Today China still wants to sweep the Tiananmen Square massacre from the national memory. For most Chinese millennials, June 4 is just another day, thanks to the Chinese government stifling the history of the massacre. As Yaqui Wang, a Chinese researcher at Human Rights Watch wrote:

“I was a year old when the Tiananmen Square massacre happened. I didn’t know about the event that changed the course of my country’s history until after I graduated from high school and learned what took place by chance on what was then a less-censored Internet. It took me several more years to understand the context and significance of the Tiananmen movement and the government’s response.”

Furthermore, the Ministry of Education bans textbooks that promote freedom of speech and the press. The government asks students to rat out teachers who are a bit too Western in their beliefs as well.

The Chinese government also interferes with journalists who try to write about Tiananmen Square. Three-quarters of China-based journalists have experienced interference by officials when they tried to write about the anniversary. Over half were blocked from entering the Square, while others reported being harassed, detained, and sometimes having their work confiscated.

And then there’s China’s crackdown on social media.

The government blocks Facebook and Instagram accounts which refer to the Tiananmen Square massacre. Reuters also reports that in late April, authorities blocked all forms of Wikipedia, no matter what language it was published in.

Recently Twitter has suspended many Chinese-language users, including those who criticize the government. Yaxue Cao, who founded and edits China Change, a US-based publication, wrote on May 31:

“A large number of Chinese @Twitter accounts are being suspended today. They ‘happen’ to be accounts critical of China, both inside and outside China.”

Here’s how she reported these violations of free speech to Twitter:

“This has to be an attack by a state actor.” Maybe? Or is Twitter running interference for the Chinese Communists? Here’s how Twitter responded:

“These accounts were not mass reported by the Chinese authorities — this was a routine action on our part. Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors. We apologize. We’re working today to ensure we overturn any errors but that we remain vigilant in enforcing our rules for those who violate them.”

Yaxue Cao is rightly suspicious.

Sen. Marco Rubio isn’t buying Twitter’s explanation. “Twitter has become a Chinese govt censor,” he declared.

China’s crackdown on the memory of Tiananmen Square is not likely to end, either. Nor is its treatment of dissidents, now that Xi Jingping governs China. While Deng Xiaoping established term limits for China’s president and vice-president, Xi Jingping abolished that policy in 2018. He now could rule China for life. Furthermore, as John Pomfret, a former Washington Post bureau chief in Beijing, wrote:

“The Chinese Communist Party has also grown stronger than it was in the 1980s when there was a push to empower the government. Now, thanks to the current leader, Xi Jinping, the party has spread its tentacles into all walks of life, including private companies and joint ventures.”

Remember the Tiananmen Square massacre. Remember the thousands who died. And know that, despite all the economic progress and the glitz of their cities, China’s people are still shackled, so long as the Communist Party controls their lives.

Welcome, Instapundit readers!


Featured image: Tank Man/Michael Mandiberg @ flickr/cropped/CC BY-SA 2.0.

Written by

Kim is a pint-sized patriot who packs some big contradictions. She is a Baby Boomer who never became a hippie, an active Republican who first registered as a Democrat (okay, it was to help a sorority sister's father in his run for sheriff), and a devout Lutheran who practices yoga. Growing up in small-town Indiana, now living in the Kansas City metro, Kim is a conservative Midwestern gal whose heart is also in the Seattle area, where her eldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandson live. Kim is a working speech pathologist who left school system employment behind to subcontract to an agency, and has never looked back. She describes her conservatism as falling in the mold of Russell Kirk's Ten Conservative Principles. Don't know what they are? Google them!

  • GWB says:

    So why not human rights and freedom?
    Because letting go of power is way different from trying to get your country out of its backwater economic status. “We want you to do all that economic magic the West has, but don’t you go getting any ideas and getting uppity, peasant!”

    Sometimes our routine actions catch false positives or we make errors.
    Which just happen to ALL go one way, politically. Yeah, we know your “errors”, Twatter.

    despite all the economic progress and the glitz of their cities
    Yes. And despite all the “conservative” assurances that economic growth would bring freedom to the people.
    Because those “conservatives” are beholden to the same idiocy that progressives are: that human nature is somehow “good” and stupidity like “all people desire freedom”. (And governments almost NEVER desire freedom.)

    Remember all those who DO desire freedom. Because they are our natural allies, and they are a rarity.

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