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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Remembering Tiananmen

I've been looking for an excuse to blog again about China, and it looks like the ageing Junta in charge of the world's fastest growing economy have given me one.

The editor of the Chengdu Evening News - a paper I've seen, but being unable to read Mandarin, I can't vouch for its quality one way or the other - has been sacked for publishing a one-line classified ad.

What heinous statement could this advert have made, for it to have cost the job and career of a regional newspaper editor? What horrific sentiment could it have contained, for the state to have sent dozens of people out on the street to retrieve copies of the paper, or for a crack investigative team to have flown from Beijing to get to the bottom of the issue?

Here's what the microscopic ad on page 14 of yesterday's paper said: "Saluting the strong mothers of victims of 64."

If you're still confused, let me add that 64 refers to the fourth of June. If that's still unclear, and it probably would be for most of us in the West, then it's probably important to recall that on the fourth of June 1989, the Chinese Junta sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to mow down protestors who were demanding more democratic rights.

Tiananmen Square was the nerve centre of the liberation movement that was smothered at birth. As freedom spread across the former communist world of Eastern Europe that same year, it was strangled with tanks in Beijing.

For 18 years, any mention of how the state mowed down their own people in the name of dictatorship has been brutally silenced in China. And now that they run Hong Kong too, they're also seeking to silence dissent in the most democratic part of their realm.

The South China Morning Post and the Standard, Hong Kong's main English language papers, reported extensively on a major row last month when Beijing puppet Ma Lik sought to play down and joke about the Tiananmen massacre.

At least in Hong Kong, the massacre is still remembered each year, and thankfully there was a predictably irate response from pro-democracy campaigners to Ma Lik's comments that people couldn't have been minced by tanks in the square and that the death toll was greatly exaggerated.

For us in the West, it would be all too easy to forget that China is the world's biggest police state, intent on smothering the democratic rights of its citizens with violence. It is all too easy to visit Beijing, tour the forbidden palace and other sights, forgetting how the students were mowed down by their own government.

It would be easy to ignore the occupation of Tibet and the denial of full democracy to Hong Kong.

Beijing desperately wants us to forget all of these things, and is spending billions on hosting the Olympics next year in an attempt to convince us that it is a respectable world power now.

It isn't. If you need proof of that, ask the editor of the Chengdu Evening News, if you can find what re-education camp he's been sent to. Ask the mothers of those murdered by the state in Tiananmen Square on June 4th 1989.

Frankly, I'm not normally a fan of boycotts. But these Olympics should be boycotted by all decent thinking people, in order to show solidarity with the Chinese people and not with their corrupt ruling class.

Unlike the joyous atmosphere of Athens in 2004, which I attended, the Beijing Olympics will be built on fear, denial of human rights and the threat of murder. Hardly the spirit of the Olympics, is it?

And while the people of China face the threat of incarceration for merely mentioning Tiananmen Square, it is incumbent on the free world to remember it for them. To remember it, and ultimately to hold the Communist Party ruling elite responsible for it.


Dario Sanchez said...

While I hate to not comment on your eloquent post about the massacre, I actually wanted to invite you to read my blog.

The reasons why it's become private are on the post I just put up ... if you're interested, jusr email me at dario-sanchez-88@hotmail.com and I'll put you on the safe list.

If not, cool, it's no big deal.

Steph said...

I came by your blog via Blogexplsion, FYI, and just want to say that this was a damn good post.

That government doesn't deserve the olympics, and China is given far too much respect and consideration in the world as it is.

Just my .002 bits.