• Sat
  • Nov 1, 2014
  • Updated: 1:12pm
Tiananmen Square crackdown
CommentInsight & Opinion

June 4 vigil still resonates with contemporary events in China

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 5:26am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 June, 2014, 5:26am

China has changed so much there is a tendency to think people do not remember the tragedy of the brutal crackdown on the student democracy movement in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago today. But some things don't change. Tonight, for the 25th time, tens of thousands of Hongkongers are expected to turn out for a candlelight vigil to ensure that the victims of the tragedy are not forgotten.

Because a quarter of a century is a landmark anniversary, the attendance in Victoria Park tonight will be more closely watched than usual as a measure of public interest. Since the 20th anniversary in 2009, younger people have taken up the candles from the older generation.

On the mainland there will be no overt commemoration or recognition, because the country has still not come to terms with this chapter in its history to that extent. The usual round-up of dissenting voices and restrictions on victims' families ahead of the anniversary are evidence of that.

China stands by the official verdict that it was necessary to send PLA troops against protesters in Tiananmen Square to put the country on course for stable development, a goal since achieved. Certainly the country's leaders perceived a real threat of overthrow of the government and anarchy, even if their method of dealing with it was questionable.

Unfortunately, the events of June 4 remain influential in perceptions of China, thanks partly to the lasting impact in Hong Kong, where the crackdown remains a factor in the discord between local democrats and Beijing.

The city is now known the world over as the host, on Chinese soil, of the biggest June 4 commemorative event. If the vigil is to be observed by future generations, it would be a shame for China if it is not transformed into a celebration of reconciliation and patriotism.

For that to happen, the central government would have to revisit the official verdict and make amends. This would bring a measure of justice to victims and their families and pave the way for the country to emerge fully from the remaining shadows cast by the crackdown.

After 25 years, the candlelight vigil still resonates with contemporary events, such as the unprecedented Communist Party crackdown on high-level official corruption, one of the issues of the Tiananmen Square protests, and continued denial of free speech.


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This article is now closed to comments

To Rambo,
" shows the column of tanks heading away from Tiananmen it makes all the difference."
---what difference is that? The tanks were there, weren't they? How is the truth being "stretched"?Tank man was standing up to the PLA, symbolizing the little guy resisting the force of tyranny. What is the material difference of a guy standing up to tyranny BEFORE they commit tyrannical acts, as opposed to AFTER? Knowing what the PLA did the day before, and still standing up against it, simply shows that the dude had an enormous pair.
I think you probably belong to the cohort who can't see the forest for the trees. If disingenuous arguments like this ("Did he wanted the tanks to return to TAM in order to commit more atrocities?") is the best you've got in a feeble attempt to defend the CCP, it's no wonder they continue to want the whitewash this episode in their history.
The protests were lead by vermin. If someone asks you to jump and you jump, its your own fault.
"The protests were lead by vermin" are you talking about the CCP?
"If someone asks you to jump and you jump, its your own fault."
- CCP slogan, since 1949.
I see many comrades have been wallpapering multiple threads with this reference to Gregory Clark and his article at Japan Times. So what makes Clark the authoritative figure on all things June 4, apart from the fact that he hums a tune that CCP apologists like to hear? It's illustrative to note that CCP apologists accept as gospel truth whatever they like to hear, and should dispel any notion of objectivity on their part.
He makes a nice reference to "black information". And the proof of same in this case? Nowhere to be found.
Yes, there's the distinction of the massacre within the square vs on Chang'an avenue. I'm all for precision. And if that's the case, Beijing's airport should really be renamed Shunyi Airport...since that's where it is. Yes, but people know BJ and maybe not Shunyi, you say...but then people might know TAM and not Chang'an Ave as well. Maybe we'll call it the BJ massacre, so that people can stop missing the forest for the trees.
I appreciate the US Embassy reports. Although it is a little bit more than ironic when CCP apologists point to US Embassy reports when it suits them. It would be less nauseating if they were a bit more consistent in accepting what US Embassy reports have to say, rather than only selectively as it suits them. But that's CCP apologist principles, I suppose.
It is well known that the Tankman pic was on June 5. Not sure what that's supposed to change. THe symbolism of one guy standing up to authoritarianism is...
A whole lot of steam.
However the Tank Man picture which have been used as a propaganda tool is critical to some of the truth about the whole tragic event. If the picture was taken post the event and shows the column of tanks heading away from Tiananmen it makes all the difference. It means this very famous is dubious at best and stretching the truth at worse. Anybody looking at the video of the Tank Man would have thought that he was trying to protect his fellow students by blocking the tanks from going to where the demonstrators were. But if the opposite was true, then is he actually trying to prevent the tank from leaving? Why? Did he wanted the tanks to return to TAM in order to commit more atrocities? Sometime the truth is stranger than fiction. And in this case, the Western media have been caught red handed promoting a very big lie.
I watched the footages and events in 1989 and my impression of the tank man was that he had lost all hope ... his friends were gone so he was inviting the tank to run him over ... so that he could end it all.
...materially and substantially different if it occurred after the massacre than before or during it? It's great this Clark guy is parsing the details, although he is framing this as something akin to discovery of subatomic particles, when it is in fact well-known already. Again, big picture, anyone? Hey, at least he seems to acknowledge that the tanks were actually there on June 5, and isn't chalking it up to some Photoshop tomfoolery. You never know sometimes what CCP apologists are prepared to say.
Why would Deng choose to attack students? Because he felt a true threat to CCP rule. A rabid dog cornered in the street will lash out...it's a genetic self-preservation thing. But not knowing precisely why he chose to lash out does not change the fact that he did. Clark seemingly asks a rhetorical question in hopes of hinting at a more forgiving answer for Deng's sake, but it simply falls flat.
The students of June 4 are not blameless. The violence and death they caused cannot be excused. But trying to justify the PLA response as being commensurate to whatever physical threat the students posed is akin to trying to justify the use of a bazooka to remove some flies.
It is amusing that this particular article is making the rounds among CCP apologists. Hardly seems like ground-breaking exposition, and not particularly well argued, as I've shown. But it nicely parrots what CCP apologists want to hear, and as far as they're concerned, that's the only criterion.
This apology for murder makes me sick, it is a clever construct of lies and half-truths masquerading as dispassionate objectivity. Mass murder is never merely questionable, and should always be condemned in the strongest terms. The Chinese Government has never admitted that it massacred unarmed citizens, so therefore it does not stand by this verdict. Yes stability was achieved, yes, but of the party, not the country, the Communist Party is stable because it is bound together by the collective responsibility for mass murder, not just Tiananmen but the millions murdered in previous decades. Meanwhile China is far from stable, it is best described as a disastrous mess, a country without friends, the most polluted nation on the planet, a society which has lost all morality and direction, an economy famous for stealing other people's ideas and cheap shoddy products. The CPC knows that it can never admit to the truth, because there would be a brutal accounting, no peace and reconciliation is possible in a country with such a history of violence as China, the only option for them is to cling on grimly to power like the Nazis, whose methods or organization and propaganda the CPC so closely follows. Finally, there is nothing unprecedented about the present crackdown on corruption, the CPC has been fighting corruption since it was founded, and the Party is more corrupt than ever.
" to send PLA troops against protesters in Tiananmen Square to put the country on course for stable development"
---this is the part that always makes me laugh. Yes, the path upon which China travelled the last 25 years has been bright overall. But was that path not available to be ventured upon without the violent crackdown, with tanks and automatic gunfire? Was the shoot-em-up the actual nascent precursor for the rapid growth of CHina's economy?
After 1989, Deng doubled down on opening up of CHina to a market economy. The CCP reversed its momentary lapse in allowing increasing political freedoms in the late 80s. Political oppression increased, and capitalism was permitted to flourish more than ever. No doubt, the dissent in 1989 encouraged those changes to take hold thereafter. But that doesn't actually justify or excuse the actual TAM crackdown. The same policy shifts and China's subsequent growth would have and could have occurred without it.
Even when the CCP does what it deems to be necessary, it is self-serving and nauseating to a high degree. But events like TAM, when the CCP and PLA do things because it can and not because it has to, should be the cautionary tales for HKers. It will be interesting to see whether 6/4 anniversaries are still deemed relevant in HK on the 58th anniversary and beyond. It will be more interesting still to see whether any such commemorative events are allowed to exist in the first place.
How About
The messages had always been- had the students succeeded 25 years ago in Beijing HK would have directly benefited but since it didn’t, HK was deprived of the democracy it deserved but couldn’t have, all democracy leaders in HK have since become enemies of CCP and China. The ‘binary’ hyperbole continues that whatever that didn’t happen was TRULY what all 1.3 Billion Chinese should have 25 years ago [because they deserved "it" and "it's" the best there is…].
Look it took some 22 years for much of the western media to reluctantly drop “massacre” from TAM [fact checking], should we not give it more time to see whether some of the assumptions or ideals of the "advocates" may be right?




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