China handles Tiananmen anniversary with usual silence | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

China handles Tiananmen anniversary with usual silence

Associated Press
1247721_web1_1247721-73c8fc466b894cf79c651671f39c80c9
AP
The large portrait of former Chinese leader Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Gate next to Tiananmen Square is seen through the window of car in Beijing, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Chinese authorities stepped up security Tuesday around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, a reminder of the government’s attempts to quash any memories of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests 30 years ago.
1247721_web1_1247721-238bc090df2648af896ab9df95618ba5
AP
Security officials stand guard in front of Tiananmen Gate next to Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Chinese authorities stepped up security Tuesday around Tiananmen Square in central Beijing, a reminder of the government’s attempts to quash any memories of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests 30 years ago.
1247721_web1_1247721-348512e280c94bd9aba0dc0f74eb522d
AP
People hold Chinese national flags leave Tiananmen Square after attending the daily flag raising ceremony on the 30th anniversary for the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protest in Beijing, Tuesday, June 4, 2019. People hold Chinese national flags leave Tiananmen Square after attending the daily flag raising ceremony on the 30th anniversary for the 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protest in Beijing, Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
1247721_web1_1247721-1c5cb84d2d2f4381ad120a9606ef20f0
AP
A Chinese paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of Mao Zedong’s portrait on Tiananmen Gate on the 30th anniversary of a bloody crackdown of pro-democracy protesters in Beijing on Tuesday, June 4, 2019.
1247721_web1_1247721-c182291e363c42fe8585c92e44cdb0f9
AP
In this early June 4, 1989 file photo, a student protester puts barricades in the path of an already burning armored personnel carrier that rammed through student lines during an army attack on pro-democracy protesters on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
1247721_web1_1247721-a61ec35487544772b0952ec0402d418a
AP

Dissidents silenced. Security tightened. References scrubbed from the internet.

China imposed an information lockdown Tuesday on the 30th anniversary of its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, a stark reminder that three decades later, the possibility of democratic change has all but evaporated.

Extra checkpoints and street closures greeted tourists who showed up before 5 a.m. to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony at the square in the center of Beijing. People overseas found themselves blocked from posting anything to a popular Chinese social media site.

China has largely succeeded in wiping the events of June 3-4, 1989, from the public consciousness at home, where the anniversary of the crackdown passed like any other weekday.

To Western critics, who this year included U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China has a simple answer: Our model works.

“The Chinese government has long had a clear conclusion about the political disturbance that occurred in the late 1980s,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in response to Pompeo. China’s economic success “fully proves that the development path we chose is completely correct and has been firmly supported by the people.”

The seven-week-long Tiananmen Square protests and their bloody end, in which hundreds if not thousands of people are believed to have died, snuffed out a tentative shift in China toward political liberalization.

The mantra of the ruling Communist Party has become stability over all else, and the party says the stability it has delivered has been a necessary underpinning to the country’s economic growth.

For many Chinese, life is better. Incomes have risen, and social restrictions such as family size and where people can live have been loosened. It’s political freedom that remains strictly controlled.

Half a dozen activists could not be reached Tuesday by phone or text. One who could, Beijing-based Hu Jia, said he had been taken last week by security agents to the northeastern coastal city of Qinghuangdao.

Chinese authorities routinely take dissidents away on what are euphemistically called “vacations” or otherwise silence them during sensitive political times.

“This is a reflection of their fears, their terror, not ours,” Hu said.

Under current President Xi Jinping, the government has tightened control over everything from religion to the internet in an apparent bid to make the Communist Party central to the future of China.

“I don’t think that in the foreseeable future there is the possibility for another mass movement against the regime, because the system of control is so complete,” said Andrew Nathan, a professor of Chinese politics at Columbia University.

Chinese overseas reported on Twitter that they were blocked from posting on Weibo, a popular social networking site. Weibo did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.

Even those who know what happened 30 years ago are reluctant to talk about it in public. A 24-year-old designer said last week in Beijing that he thought it was quite a pity when he learned that many had died.

“But it’s really not convenient to talk about it,” he said, giving only the name he goes by in English, Tony.

Any commemoration of the event is not allowed in mainland China, though tens of thousands turned out for an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong. The Chinese territory has relatively greater freedoms than the mainland, though even there, activists are concerned about the erosion of those liberties in recent years.

Pompeo issued a statement Monday saluting what he called the “heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago … to demand their rights.” He said that U.S. hopes that China would become a more open and tolerant society have been dashed.

He and his European Union counterpart Federica Mogherini urged China to come clean on what happened and how many died.

“Acknowledgement of these events, and of those killed, detained or missing in connection with the Tiananmen Square protests, is important for future generations and for the collective memory,” Mogherini said in a statement.

Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said that “some people in the U.S. always regard themselves as others’ teachers and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of so-called democracy and human rights, while turning a blind eye to problems at home. The Chinese people have seen through their hypocrisy and sinister intentions.”

The crackdown set the Communist Party on a path of repression, Nathan said, adding that China would likely be a very different place if the nation’s rulers had ended the protests peacefully through dialogue instead of by force.

“They embarked on a strategy of not dialoguing with the people,” he said. “The party knows best, the party decides, and the people have no voice. So that requires more and more intense repression of all of the forces in society that want to be heard.”

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.