Protesters in Hong Kong remember Tiananmen Square massacre

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  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Protesters in Hong Kong remember Tiananmen Square massacre

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    A boy, accompanied by his parent, participates in a candlelight vigil at Hong Kong's Victoria Park, June 4,2013 to mourn those who died in a military crackdown on a pro democracy movement at Beijing's Tienanmen Square
    in 1989. Tuesday marks the 24th anniversary of the military crackdown of the movement. Photo by Bobby Yip




    Tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents, joined by a smattering of mainland Chinese, converged in central Victoria Park here Tuesday to honour the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown and vent their anger at a Chinese leadership that has increasingly signalled its intent to broaden its limited control over the territory.

    Speakers shouted “Down with the Communist Party” and “Free elections for all citizens.”

    Such protests are effectively banned in mainland China, creating a draw for the mainlanders who attended.

    “I came because you can’t commemorate this day on the mainland,” said one, a former magazine editor who gave his name only as Li for self-protection. “Here you can soak up the democratic atmosphere.”

    The protesters pressed a variety of agendas. A 17-year-old student named Zheng from Guangdong province was among several holding a flag of the Republic of China, whose leaders fled to Taiwan as the Communists took over the mainland in 1949. Wan Yun, 47, a Hong Kong resident formerly from the Chinese province of Hubei, laid out documents about a land dispute that she said had brought her a year in a labour camp.

    The annual demonstration is the most vivid display of the continuing passions over the 1989 crackdown on student protests in Beijing, an event whose name and date has been stricken by censors on mainland China.

    Armed soldiers and armoured vehicles swept through Beijing, shooting dead – by most estimates – hundreds of people to end two months of protests, hunger strikes and passionate speeches at Tiananmen Square.

    Student leaders backed by thousands of mainly young Chinese had been urging the Communist Party to attack official corruption, expand citizens’ rights and take steps toward democracy.

    Twenty-four years after the bloodshed, China’s Communist Party has honed its response to the unwelcome anniversary: detaining and silencing dissidents and bereaved families who hope to observe the day with mourning; mobilizing extra police officers to ensure that no protests break out around Tiananmen Square; and scrubbing Chinese Internet sites of any references and images that refer to or even hint at the upheavals of 1989.

    The major exception to this annual feat of erasure is the event in Hong Kong, a self-administered enclave under Chinese sovereignty, where tens of thousands gather each year for a candlelit memorial vigil and rally.

    This year’s crowd was estimated by the police at 54,000 people, although organizers put the turnout at 150,000.

    Protesters in Hong Kong remember Tiananmen Square massacre - The Globe and Mail
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2013
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    China’s censors block Tiananmen references on massacre's anniversary

    You can search "June 4th" or "Jun 4th" and results will not come up. You can try with Chinese characters, or in their Pinyin transliteration, or in English or even French and the result will not appear on your screen.

    Even "today" won't work. Nor “tomorrow.”

    June 4, the anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre is again keeping censors busy in China.

    As in past years, there is a long list of words that people in China are blocked from searching on Weibo (the Chinese version of Twitter) around the time of the anniversary of the bloody incident.

    According to a compilation from the Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, this year’s banned search keywords include various combinations of the numbers 6, 4, 8 and 9.

    Search terms such as “Tiananmen,” “square,” “tank” and “Changan Avenue,” which leads to the central square, and names of leaders of the 1989 protests were obviously blocked.

    But Citizen Lab researchers found that even Roman numerals for 6 and 4 (“VIIV”), or the mixing of numbers and letters such as “8q b 4” (89 6 4) or other ways to describe June 4, such “May 35” or “April 65th.”

    Another anti-censorship website reported that at times the authorities tried a more fine-tuned, filtered approach, allowing only some search results to come through.

    By the date of the anniversary, the Chinese characters for “yesterday,” “today,” and “tomorrow” were also blocked, according to China Digital Times, a watchdog website based in California.

    The censorship also applied to anything that could be construed as a way to commemorate the massacre of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s central square.

    Queries about black clothes were blocked, as were candle emoticons.

    Still, some managed to sneak through a reference to the crackdown.

    Buzzfeed reported that, three days ago, a Chinese web portal, NetEase.com featured a photo gallery of children toys. In the middle of the slideshow was a Lego recreation of the iconic photo of “Tank Man,” the protester who tried to stop a column of tanks heading into the square.

    China’s censors block Tiananmen references on massacre's anniversary - The Globe and Mail
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Cracks form in China's wall of silence on Tiananmen

    For more than two decades, there has been only stony silence from China’s ruling Communist Party about the bloody crackdown that quashed pro-democracy demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.

    It was a silence that drove Ya Weilin to despair – this week the 73-year-old hanged himself in his Beijing apartment, the last move in a long and fruitless battle to bring the truth of what happened that day to light. His suicide note recounted again the details of how his son, Ya Aiguo, had been shot dead that day while shopping with his girlfriend a few blocks west of Tiananmen Square. Mr. Ya’s note said he would “fight with my death” against the official silence, according to a statement released by the Tiananmen Mothers, a victims’ parents group that he belonged to.

    That wall of silence is now starting to crack. A new book that will be published Monday in Hong Kong to coincide with the 23rd anniversary quotes Chen Xitong, Beijing’s mayor at the time, saying that the Tiananmen massacre was “a tragedy that could have been avoided.”

    It’s the first time that a senior Communist official involved in the crackdown has publicly expressed regret. “Nobody should have died if it was handled properly,” Mr. Chen is quoted as saying. “Several hundred people died on that day. As the mayor, I felt sorry. I hoped we could have solved the case peacefully. Looking back, I consider it a tragedy that could have been prevented, should have been prevented but was not prevented.”

    The book, Conversations with Chen Xitong, is based on a series of eight interviews Mr. Chen gave to the author, Yao Jianfu, an academic and former government official. Mr. Chen was one of the most powerful figures in China until 1998, when he was sentenced to 16 years in jail on corruption charges. Now out on medical parole, the 81-year-old likens his dramatic fall to the recent purge of former Chongqing boss Bo Xilai.

    Beijing long ago declared its investigation into the events of June 4 concluded, saying that about 200 people – including many soldiers – died during the suppression of a “counter-revolutionary riot.” Other estimates, including that of the Chinese Red Cross at the time, put the number of dead at 2,600 or higher, with civilians making up the large majority of those killed.

    Discussion of the protests and the crackdown that followed is forbidden in China’s official media, and the topic is barred from classrooms and textbooks. As a result, many Chinese youths either know nothing about the events of 1989, or only the government’s version of what happened.

    But that information control has started to fail in recent years as more and more Chinese have gone online. Despite tight censorship, Chinese netizens have taken to discussing the Tiananmen crackdown in oblique ways – such as referring to June 4 as “May 35th” in an effort to avoid blocks on certain terms – and circulating foreign media reports of what happened.

    In a sign that the Communist Party leadership may be willing to tolerate greater discussion of the dark parts of its history, the magazine Southern People Weekly recently published an 18-page report on the millions who died during the famine caused by Mao Zedong’s failed Great Leap Forward of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Some hope that if debating the Great Leap Forward is now tolerated, the murderous decade of the Cultural Revolution (1966 to 1976) might soon get similar treatment, and then eventually the events of 1989.

    The slight opening comes ahead of a planned transfer of power from the current generation of Chinese leaders headed by President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao to a new one headed by Xi Jinping, the current vice-president. Mr. Wen has spoken out repeatedly in recent years about the need for political change in China. Less is known about Mr. Xi’s politics, but his late father, the revolutionary veteran Xi Zhongxun, criticized the Tiananmen crackdown shortly after it happened.

    Wu Guoguang, a former adviser to Zhao Ziyang, the reformist secretary-general of the Communist Party who was deposed for siding with the students in 1989, said that by coming forward with his own version of events, Mr. Chen had recognized that the official silence couldn’t last forever. “From my reading, the reason he wants to talk about 1989 is because he doesn’t agree with the official version of 1989,” said Mr. Wu, who is now a professor of political science at the University of Victoria and wrote the introduction to Conversations with Chen Xitong.

    In a sign that he worries how history will regard him, Mr. Chen also tried to distance himself from the decision to use force to disperse the hundreds of thousands of protesters on the square. He disputed the version of history put forward by former premier Li Peng that portrayed Mr. Chen as the “chief commander” of the Beijing Martial Law Command Centre during the crackdown. (Mr. Li’s own memoirs have thus far been blocked from publication.)

    Mr. Chen is also accused of encouraging a crackdown by exaggerating – in a report to Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader at the time – the danger posed to the regime by the protesters on the square.

    “I know nothing of this role I allegedly played. I don’t know what [Mr. Li’s]purpose is [for claiming that]” Mr. Chen says in the book.

    “[Mr. Chen]may feel that the tides are due for another shift,” said Jerome Cohen, an expert in Chinese law who teaches at New York University. “He may feel that this is a good time to stake out a claim that he shouldn’t be the villain of Chinese history.”

    Mr. Chen seems to believe that China’s history, like Russia’s, will one day be re-examined. “I believe that one day the party will declassify all the documents and history will give a fairer judgment on Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng and Zhao Ziyang,” he said in the book. “I believe this is only a matter of time. … Unfair and unjust things will be readdressed one day.”

    Cracks form in China's wall of silence on Tiananmen - The Globe and Mail
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Fear of Freedom

    Only a paranoid State tries to dictate what the people should remember and what they must forget. The way China stopped the people from commemorating the 24th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre of June 4, 1989 reflected the insecurity of the communist regime. Visitors and journalists were barred from entering the cemetery in Beijing where many of the victims of the tragedy are buried. Some of the State’s actions evoked Orwellian images of a totalitarian regime. While the authorities blocked internet access to all references to the tragedy, they also blacked out any icon resembling a candle. The reason apparently was that a lighted candle has long become synonymous with a protest or a commemoration. It is typical of such regimes to delude themselves into thinking that they can control thought and national memory by imposing crude restrictions. Obviously, there are many other ways the Chinese — both in China and elsewhere — remember the tragic day and reflect on what it meant for the country’s future. Many of the protagonists who survived the army crackdown on the protest at Tiananmen Square that day may have been jailed for long years or forced to live in exile. But their dream of a democratic China continues to haunt China’s rulers 24 years on.

    The censoring of the commemoration this time says much about China’s new leadership. No one expected the Chinese communist party to change its official position that the protest at Tiananmen Square in 1989 was a “counter-revolutionary” move. But several of today’s party bosses, including Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, were groomed in the liberal political culture that briefly prevailed in Beijing in the 1980s. It now seems certain that these leaders will not be any different from their predecessors when it comes to political reform. It is possible that any champion of such reform will meet the fate of Zhao Ziyang, the pro-reform party chief, who was purged for taking a soft line on the student demonstrators of 1989 and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. But the Chinese charade of an open economy co-existing with a closed political system is increasingly becoming difficult to sustain. The more the regime tries to stifle political and other freedoms, the less legitimacy it will have in the eyes of its people and of the world. Economic power alone cannot earn China the trust of the free world.

    fear of freedom
     
  6. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    True that the Tienanmen Square massacre by the Chinese military on the orders of Deng, the political boss of China, was indeed inhuman and dastardly.

    However, to expect that the same Communist Party that idolises Deng as the Founder of the New China would allow commemoration of that massacre is expecting a bit too much from China.

    While the Chinese Govt may wish to brush the whole sordid affair under the carpet and want to wipe it out of the memory of the Chinese people, but it is not succeeding.

    It is the new China which is slowly finding its voice!

    Finding its voice maybe true, but overcoming their fear from persecution is yet to come about.

    It is places like Hong Kong which will continue to be the beacon to Chinese aspirations and their yearning to take a big leap into the freedom experienced by the rest of the world!
     

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