Tiananmen Square: Why the world remembers

The media pipeline, not surprisingly, is glutted with stories about Tiananmen Square as the 15th anniversary of the June 4 massacre approaches. One article in CNN looks at how despite the progress and change of recent years, the ghosts of June 4 haunt us even today.

The political repression continued. But for most ordinary Chinese, there was more hope, and greater personal liberty, than at almost any other time in Chinese history….

Mothers who lost their sons are harassed and prevented from mourning in public and their demands for the government to reexamine the tragedy are rebuffed.

For the Chinese Communist Party, “reversing the verdict” on Tiananmen would be like pulling a bandage off a still-unhealed wound.

Because in the end, for all the progress since then, Tiananmen showed that the party still rules by repression and by fear.

That’s why, while for ordinary Chinese Tiananmen is now largely forgotten, for the ruling elite — and for many of those who were there — the ghosts have not gone away.

“The party still rules by repression and fear.”

More than any other event that I “witnessed” from a distance, I felt that I was there as the Tiananmen Square saga unfolded. I was as far away as I could be, in my new apartment in Arizona, but I stayed glued to the news, as much as I did on September 11th, and I thought we were watching one of the great revolutions of history. And we were.

I don’t know why I was so obsessed. I suppose it was the shock of having hopes raised to such a high level, and then being so terribly disappointed. Who could have believed it — all of Beijing, it appeared, joining mass protests for democracy. The government couldn’t just march in and shoot their own people for peaceful demonstrations, could they? I never felt such impotent rage as the army “restored social stability” to Beijing. And I couldn’t get the image of the “tank man” out of my head (and I still can’t, and probably never will).

I guess the one satisfaction to be had as June 4 nears is the knowledge that, as much as the government strives to silence the activists and the TS mothers and anyone who dares even raise the topic, memories of Tiananmen Square are as alive and as vivid as they were 15 years ago, both for those who saw it with their own eyes and those who saw it on videotape thousands of miles away. It hasn’t been forgiven and it hasn’t been forgotten, no matter how much Li Peng and his colleagues (those who are alive or burning in hell) wish otherwise.

More posts about Tiananmen Square:
Tiananmen Square revisited
Tiananmen Square re-revisited
The story behind the Tiananmen Square “tank man” photo

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: One Comment

Mainland news roundup.

The “Approach to 6/4 Watch” Edition The western media continues its abhorent maligning of text of the lead-up to the anniversary of TSM. For some reason people keep forgetting that in fact the protests started as a worker’s protest and then morphed int…

June 1, 2004 @ 7:37 am | Comment

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