China cautiously remembers Tiananmen
Posted By Sylvie Stein Friday, June 4, 2010 - 6:03 PM Share
In 1990, to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre that had taken place on June 4 one year prior, only one lone Chinese man stood in the plaza where the blood was shed, seizing a momentary opportunity to hold up a white wreath inscribed "Heroes who died for democracy and freedom" before being arrested. On the five-year anniversary in 1994, political dissidents and their families were detained and harassed, and concerts, interviews, and visas were cancelled across Beijing. And last year, for the twentieth anniversary landmark, police officers blanketed the square and threatened any reporters who approached the area.
Could today's 21st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown be any different?
In most ways, no. The Chinese government continues to deny the Tiananmen Square massacre, framing the thousands of student protesters beaten and killed in the crackdown as "counterrevolutionary" propagandists. In Beijing and the rest of the nation (save Hong Kong), the media is still banned from mentioning the event, and left-wing activists have been monitored and put on house arrest. The government blocked Twitter yet again, preventing opponents from communicating and organizing.
Perhaps the only publicly visible, successful instance of commemorating the anniversary in mainland China was the cartoon invoking famous Tiananmen imagery, published in the Southern Metropolis Daily -- one of the nation's most provocative newspapers -- earlier this week. Though authorities promptly removed it from the website, the inflammatory cartoon is reportedly still available in a PDF version of the article, and has already united a massive online community in discussing and honoring the events of June 4, 1989.
In Hong Kong, where demonstrations and limited democracy are tolerated and the press is far less censored, the anniversary was more openly observed. Today, 150,000 Chinese residents attended candlelight vigils, where they sang, protested, and brandished signs espousing a democratic China. Student activists at the Chinese University of Hong Kong defied administrators in a thwarted attempt to erect a "Goddess of Democracy" statue near their campus.