On June 4th 1989, Chinese communist soldiers gunned down hundreds of peaceful protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, China’s main public space. Since then, the CCP has tried to erase the event from Chinese history, banning its mention in schools and domestic media, and harassing or jailing citizens who attempt to evoke its memory.
On April 26th 1989, the Chinese communist’s mouthpiece, The People’s Daily, published an editorial, “We Must Take a Clear Stand Against Unrest”. The Politburo standing committee, the small group of Communist Party leaders that controls China’s government, announced a “no-tolerance” policy to the student protesters who had occupied Tiananmen Square to peacefully ask for political freedoms. It was this article that precipitated the crackdown of the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square on that fateful day of June 4th.
Exercises to ensure anti-remembrance
This year, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the publication of the editorial, police in Beijing took part in what they termed as “an anti-riot exercise in a bid to boost [the] ability to maintain stability in the capital, as well as to protect the lives and property of the public.”
Photos of riot squads, vehicles carrying water cannons and police wielding wooden weapons to simulate mobs were shown on official media. Fires, scrapped cars and tires were also utilized to simulate “mass incidents”.
Beijing human rights activist Hu Jia stated, “these [images of police] with guns and shields in full riot gear will be seen by a lot of people via the media… They will probably not dare take to the streets or hold any sort of protest now”.
Mothers of victims under surveillance
The Chinese police have also been monitoring and detaining anyone who might dare to publicly remember June 4, 1989. The CCP has focused efforts to silence dissent on the families of the protesters and civilians killed.
According to the Telegraph, Ding Zilin (age 77) whose son was shot dead in the ’89 crackdown, and had founded the Tiananmen Mothers -a group comprised of the relatives of massacre victims, is currently under heavy police surveillance and has been unreachable since March.
He Yang (age 44) a Beijing-based documentary maker, was detained by national security agents when he tried to visit Ms. Ding. Before he got to her door, police gave him a letter stating he was to be held on suspicion of “endangering national security”. Mr. He stated, “Ding is a member of the Tiananmen Mothers group which is defined as a hostile organization aiming to subvert Communist Party rule”.
Mister He told the Telegraph, “For now, I will not touch on filming related to June 4 since it will definitely land you in prison, and it won’t be a short jail term either…I was just going to film an old woman, it was no big deal, [but] I was close to touching their most sensitive nerve.”
You Weijie (age 61) spokesman for Tiananmen Mothers group, whose home phone line got disconnected stated, “I cannot speak to you” when she was contacted.
Truth carries a heavy price
Princeton University professor Perry Link is banned from entering China for helping Fang Lizhi a prominent astrophysicist and dissident, find refuge at the US embassy in June 1989. He said that the CCP is “really nervous about keeping the lid on top,” and that those who speak out about the massacre faced tremendous government pressure ranging from “friendly” warnings to direct threats, house arrest and imprisonment.
“There is a price for telling the truth,” he said.
In 1989, the Tiananmen crackdown sparked a wave of international condemnation. In the years that followed China was viewed as a near-pariah and many Western governments offered asylum to student leaders fleeing into exile.