Tiananmen Square crackdown

Apathy reigns as anniversary draws near

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 June, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 June, 2000, 12:00am

Beijing officialdom still refuses to allow the events on the night of June 3-4, 1989, to be discussed in any public forum. Print editors, Web site managers and students alike know that it is safer to avoid the topic altogether. The approaching anniversary gets hardly a mention in the mainland media.

When asked if there had been any mention of 'June 4' in online chat groups, and if any action was taken to prevent dissident views from being aired on the company's Web site, a spokesman for - a major mainland Web site with plans to list on Nasdaq - would only say 'actually, there aren't too many people who want to talk about it anyway'.

There are, however, people who do see a point in remembering the events of 11 years ago. For one thing, there are still 312 people in prison or on medical parole for reasons connected with the 1989 protests, according to Amnesty International.

Ding Zilin, a former philosophy professor at the People's University, whose son was killed during the night of June 3-4, has compiled a list of 155 dead and 65 wounded during her campaign to seek redress and compensation for victims' families.

Today's students, though, are unlikely to have any direct knowledge of what happened in Tiananmen Square 11 years ago. In some cases, this lack of experience is reflected in apathy: 'I'm too busy studying for classes and preparing for exams. I don't get involved,' said one engineering student at Beijing University.

This seems to be the attitude of many ordinary Beijingers. Everybody knows that something happened, but few people claim to have any strong feelings. Even people who are quite willing to criticise the Government and the Communist Party often have little to say when it comes to June 4. 'I just don't think about it,' said one taxi driver, echoing a common reaction.

This could be because, as one real estate agent explained, ordinary people respect the students and sympathise with their motives, but also blame them to some extent for the way it ended and so find it awkward to pass judgment.

Others adopt more contentious postures. 'It was no big deal. Violence is widespread. Of course the Government is going to do what it has to to keep power,' said one politics student about the military crackdown.