Tianamen’s ghost alive and well; Foursquare banned in China

Gady Epstein on China’s decision yesterday to ban Foursquare nationwide after it was used to arrange gatherings at Tiananmen Square:

The blocking of Foursquare, while perhaps temporary, is yet another reminder that the Communist Party of China is serious about controlling history, as I wrote about last year at this time, and is just as serious about controlling the dangers of Web 2.0. Chinese social networking services are in self-censorship mode today — in the case of the portal Sina, even removing emoticons of candles and flowers from its microblog. To some extent the party’s strategy has been successful: Many in China, especially younger generations, have little clue what happened 21 years ago on June 4. Of those that do remember, some unknown percentage — perhaps a quite high percentage — have chosen not to care too deeply, a sort of willed forgetting in service of today’s prosperity that author Chan Koon Chung broaches in his Chinese novel “The Fat Years.”

….Those who choose to remember, meanwhile, continue to do so today — in various ways on the Chinese Internet, quite brazenly on Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook for those who use a VPN or proxy service to get around the Great Firewall, and many in their own quiet ways offline. Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou’s issued a statement today, translated here, asking that Beijing “sincerely confront the major human rights incident of June Fourth.” Hong Kong holds its annual march and candlelight vigil tonight. Up to 50,000 people there are expected to show that they choose not to forget.

All of those who insist the Chinese people don’t care about this anymore leave out this key point: today’s apathy and indifference toward the incident is government-induced. Epstein in the above article calls it “willed forgetting.” I left the following comment on this topic over at Elliott Ng’s excellent post today:

The only point I disagree with is that it’s been forgotten due to “the busyness of life.” In neighboring Hong Kong there are still sizable demonstrations, and the world still remembers the day vividly. Just look at twitter last night. It is only where the incident has been filtered out of the search engines and banned from any discussion in the media that it is forgotten. The Nanjing Massacre is not forgotten, and those remembering it are just as busy as those forgetting the TSM. Out of sight, out of mind. Gady is spot on – this is willed forgetfulness, and the one doing the willing is the government. That is the high price that comes with a one-party authoritarian state; Big Brother controls the brainwaves and can convince people that ignorance is strength and freedom is slavery.

[Also via Elliott, whose post offers an array of excellent links, I found these superb photos from 1989 over at Slate. Highly recommended.]

I got quite annoyed at myself several days ago when I put up a post on Tibet and gave a finger-wagging lecture about how whenever China censors and cracks down on basic liberties it tells the world it is still a weak country, insecure and in the grip of a seemingly unending inferiority complex. I got so annoyed at my own self-righteousness I deleted it. But I look at this story and I think, maybe it’s not too harsh or self-righteous. It may come across that way, especially when Westerners say it, but it still needs to be said.

As China embarks on an expensive and ambitious campaign to build up its soft power, it should look right here, at this sort of behavior. Soft power is all about hearts and minds. The US sacrificed much of its own soft power under Bush, and you’d think China would learn from that. Bullying and suppressing aren’t good strategies for winning global admiration.

Update: CDT has some great articles, videos and photos on its site, which today is bathed in black. You must go see those videos (like this one). No wonder the whole incident has been hermetically sealed and locked away.

The Discussion: 63 Comments

In your earlier post you made a sarcastic comment about one country two systems. Yet, tonight, my young son asked why the people in Victoria Park (next to our house) were making so much noise and what their lights meant. When I started to explain, he said, “Oh, we learned about that in GS [General Studies] class today at school.” To explore the topic further, together, we got onto the internet and looked at photos of Tank Man and other Tiananmen topics.

So, I put it to you: would a Primary 1 student in the mainland have had a day like my son had today? Long live two systems.

June 4, 2010 @ 11:45 pm | Comment

Thanks Richard. Some thoughts:

1. Nanjing Massacre may be a case of “willed remembering” – the government sees value in this example of foreign aggression as an example of what happens when you don’t have a strong, independent Chinese government to protect the interests of its people.

2. Agree that “today’s apathy and indifference toward the incident is government-induced.” Didn’t mean to neglect this fact in the post.

3. In terms of history being shaped to serve the interests of modern society (and especially those in power), TAM is just the tip of the iceberg. The collective amnesia about the Cultural Revolution is far greater. The inconvenience and discomfort involved in “getting at the Truth of things” for that historical period is so great and implicates so many people, it simply is something that no one wants to talk about.

Did you see the Chinese Pavillion video piece? It was exceptionally produced, and I personally found it quite moving even as a foreigner. The piece starts from the beginning of recorded history of Modern China. This, of course, would be 1978. After watching this incredible piece on the 30+ years since Reform and Opening, we’re treated to an even more stunning view of the famous Riverside Scene at Qingming Festival. This was also incredibly moving. Just like the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics, Ancient China is celebrated, and so is Modern China (post 1978). But a silence falls on history prior to that…it is just too much “effort” to intrepret the century of humiliation and post Revolution China up to 1978. And the idea of an eventual “truth & reconciliation” process seems very non-Chinese to me…

June 4, 2010 @ 11:53 pm | Comment

I just find this ridiculous. Last month the government in Thailand killed dozens redshirts in order to regain control of the city and there’s no public condemnation yet there some some people who wants to ‘remember’ Tianamen.

June 5, 2010 @ 1:15 am | Comment

Pug, this blog focuses on China. There are lots of bad things that happen all over the world every day. This blog, repeat, focuses on China.

Jenny, the sarcasm in the earlier post was in regard to this:

Commemorative activities organized by the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China (The Alliance) were brought to an abrupt halt by police on May 29th and 30th.

Sure, there are still two systems. But things like this indicate somebody with power wants those two systems to become increasingly alike.

Elliott, thanks for the excellent comment. We don’t disagree about much, if anything. And I wasn’t aware of the China Pavilion show and appreciate your description; it sounds completely in keeping with a government that places harmony above history, warm fuzzies over facts, and good news over reality.

June 5, 2010 @ 1:22 am | Comment

Jenny: “Long live two systems.”

The Taiwanese are unimpressed.

June 5, 2010 @ 5:03 am | Comment

I Believe That the Protesters During The June 4th Incident Were Suffering From Severe Mass Psychosis, and the Chinese Government Was Simply Try To Act As Psychiatrists.

This post wants to express a unique opinion, and that opinion is, the students protesters during the June 4th anti-revolutionary riot were suffering from mass pscyhosis. And the entire incident was simply a severe episode of mass psychosis. The CCP’s actions during the incident can be seen as a treatment, helping the students recover from their psychotic states.

China in the 80’s was in a state of irrationality. The reform and opening up was at a crossroad, the 80’s university students at the time were induced into pyschotic mental states due to the unique nature of China’s society back then. Here I’ll present some evidence of the students’ severe illness.

Some of you may have heard Ding Zilin, a Chinese college professor who gained her fame through the death of her 19 year old son during the riot.

The night her son was killed, martial law was already given. Now, what is the meaning of martial law? It means the enitre city will be under military discipline, and will resemble a warzone, and any civillian who disobeys the soldiers who are enforcing the martial law will be killed and the soldiers will not be responsible for it. This is the essence of martial law. I am sure Ding Zilin’s son was aware of this nature of martial law. Yet, knowing about martial law, and knowing the severe danger he migth be in if he were to violate it, he delibrately went to the streets and deliberately disobeyed the soldier. We can only conclude two possible things from this:

1) Her son was trying to seek suicide, perhaps “suicde by cop”.
2) Her son was suffering from massive delusion, and therefore a victim of pyschosis.

In any case, his death can be entirely blamed on himself and his family.

Using this example as a starting point, we can conclude that most of the students during the riot were victims of mass psychosis. Just think about those, these 19-20 year olds with barely enough pubic hair wanted to sit down across the table with state leaders, people 30,40,50 years their senior, and talk as if they are equal parties. If you watched the “dialog” between the student leader Wuer Kaixi and Li Peng, you’ll easily see that Wuer Kaixi talks as if he is lecturing a student. Putting aside the necessary respect one must pay to a state leader, what about the necessary courtesy one pays when talking to an elder? Not only that, the students gave ultimatums, gave demands, and shouted loudly during the dialog, as if they are the state leaders. If this behavior is not psychotic behavior, what is psychotic behavior?

Now, a lot of people using the word “massacre” to describe CCP’s actions during the incident. Let’s examin this. First, what is a “massacre”? Massacre is, from an engineering viewpoint, an act that removes the right to survival of another being, using violent means, when that being had no means of resisting. During the June 4th incident, the PLA repeatedly warned the students and asked them to leave the Square, and the students massively occupied the most important square in the most important city in China, for several months. They refused the warnings given by the CCP to leave the square. Therefore, you cannot say they had no choice, they had a choice to leave the square everyday for several months. It’s not like the CCP blockaded the square and trapped the students to plan their murder. Furthermore, the students used rocks, blockades, etc to impeded the enforcements of martial law, and even used fire to burn the soldiers. What happens in the USA, if you try to throw a burning object at a police officer?

Another interesting question is, how come none of the leaders of the riot was killed? Wan Dan, Chai Ling, Wuer Kaixi, Liu xiaobo, etc. They are all alive and well and living very rich lives in the USA. While the innocent students who naively believed them had to die on the square. Are those student leaders not the primary culprits in their deaths? Chai Ling, when interviewed by Western jounalists during the incident, famously said, “Bloodshed is good, we want bloodshed, the more blood the better, only when there’s bloodshed will we receive attention”. Of course she was not talking about her own blood. She could be another ruthless politician if she had the chance.

It’s pretty clear to me that this June 4th incident was a severe episode of mass psychosis of the students. They were crazy enough to go against the machinery of the state.

Therefore, the lesson for the June 4th incident is that we need to increase funding for the mental health of our students and teenagers, and perhaps more research on drugs in treating cases of pyschosis.

Also, as the 18th anniversity of the June 4th incident nears, I’d like to thank all the PLA soliders who helped put down the riot, helped the students recover from their illness, and saved the country from sinking to an abyss.

June 5, 2010 @ 10:06 am | Comment

Two systems is better than one…until the side that chose to condone it chooses to take it away. So we’ll see in 2047…assuming everything stays the same until then. But I agree with Gan Lu. Why buy into someone else’s arbitrary 2-part system when you’ve already got your own? It was better than nothing for a region that really had no choice in the matter, but it’s not much of a selling feature for another region that does.

Really enjoyed how you and Elliott framed the “forced remembering” and “forced indifference”.

Really enjoyed Pugster’s comment too, for entirely different reasons of course.

June 5, 2010 @ 10:08 am | Comment

For everyone’s information, Math posted the exact same comment here.

Yes, the CCP acted as good psychiatrists and shot their patients to death. What would we do without them?

SK, pug’s comments are always, um, interesting.

June 5, 2010 @ 10:12 am | Comment

To Math:
you really are something. And you really need a new handle. For starters, 2010-1989 = 21 (not 18). So I wouldn’t switch to Arithmetic or Subtraction, since you’ve shown no competency in those pursuits either.

For a guy who recently used “artists” to illustrate the finer points of “high tech production”, I don’t think you’re eminently qualified to discuss anything “from an engineering viewpoint” either.

If there’s one thing those students were guilty of, it’s the naivete to believe that one can reason with the CCP. We saw how that turned out, and it will remain a cautionary tale insofar as what one can expect from the CCP for years to come.

I will say this: you are very “unique”. And “special” too.

June 5, 2010 @ 10:21 am | Comment


I believe the problem is how Tianamen is remembered in America’s psyche. A few months ago I had to go to the public library to get a book for my daughter’s show and tell. I just saw a kids book with large words and lots of illustrations about China describing many Chinese people fighting for democracy and got killed over it. That’s what I find tragic.

June 5, 2010 @ 1:35 pm | Comment

Your post reinforces the value of historians, journalists, bloggers (literally, people who keep journals) who document events, verify facts and create a reliable group memory.

June 5, 2010 @ 9:06 pm | Comment

Thanks Bob.

SK, you can’t argue with Math. He’s some advanced form of malware.

Pug, first off, I don’t believe you. You never saw any such book. Second, it’s not that outlandish a claim. More accurate would have been to say they were killed protesting for reform, not democracy per se, but democracy was a part of it, the right to have their voices heard and have fair representation. So dry your tears and face the music: while myths about the TSM endure, as they do about the Long March and most other big events in history, the essence of what you read is correct.

June 5, 2010 @ 11:51 pm | Comment

I wouldn’t be so dismissive of Pug_ster’s claim despite his general jackassery. There are children’s books about all kinds of things.

June 6, 2010 @ 12:59 am | Comment

The funny part is that this supposed book is what pug finds “tragic.” Really?
People are shot and mowed down in the street, and your main concern is a children’s book that has a different interpretation of history than you? What I find tragic is people like you, who will go to any length to justify what the CCP did in 1989, while most likely crying out over and over that the world “needs to remember” the Nanjing Massacre or the post-boxer allied expedition.

June 6, 2010 @ 2:08 am | Comment

What Kevin said.

MAC, pug is a 50 center who makes stuff up all the time. Imagine walking into a public library and seeing this scenario. Do you actually walk up to kids and look at what they are reading. And not just look, but actually READ the text along with them? Think about it. Do people walk up to you when you’re reading at the library and actually read the text along with you? Because his eyeballs must have been pretty close to the page to read how the book says they died fighting for democracy. And as I said, while that is not the whole story, it’s more true than it is false.

June 6, 2010 @ 2:18 am | Comment

To Kevin,

agreed. It again goes to instances where the CCP feels that people should be force-fed memories, and others where people need to be force-fed amnesia. It has nothing to do with principles; it’s simply whatever is expedient for the CCP. Mind you, doing whatever is expedient for the CCP is likely her primary guiding principle. And some people who aren’t even in the CCP’s grasp choose to buy into that sort of thing. That’s their prerogative, I suppose. Aren’t they lucky to get to make that choice.

June 6, 2010 @ 2:28 am | Comment


I think this issue here is that Pug_ster failed to use proper punctuation and that you have misinterpreted what he meant as a result. He should have written “kids’ book.” From your explanation, you obviously read it as “kid’s book,” which I agree would be ridiculous. But if we read it as a Chinese father looking for a book for show-and-tell (maybe it was “bring a book about your/another culture” or maybe the book just caught his eye as he browsed) and happening upon this book in the process, I don’t see how that’s so implausible that it should be dismissed out of hand.

Not that I’m defending him as a poster on the whole.

June 6, 2010 @ 4:00 am | Comment

Pugs, again, why exactly are you living in the US?


June 6, 2010 @ 4:55 am | Comment

I just saw a kids book with large words and lots of illustrations about China describing many Chinese people fighting for democracy and got killed over it.

How you conclude this means he “Read along” with another person? He cannot see this book from a shelf? Also, even if he read along with another, kids books have few words, mostly pictures, he cannot just glance for 3 seconds on 2 pages and digest the rough meaning?

Richard, please explain how you got your interpretation?

Pugs, again, why exactly are you living in the US?

Everyone has many reasons to live in any country? Why ask such a personal question? Where’s the respect for privacy in your Western society?


June 6, 2010 @ 6:32 am | Comment

To Red Star,
If Pugster wants to share with us why he lives in the US when he seemingly holds it in such disdain, while choosing not to live in China under the CCP which he seemingly holds in such high regard, that’s up to him. If he doesn’t, that’s also up to him. And if people want to ask the question, that’s up to them. Merely asking a question is not an invasion of privacy. Compelling an answer against his will would be, but we aren’t doing that, are we?

You guys really need to show some more creativity with the comebacks. Copying other people’s phrases shows a complete lack of imagination. I wonder if that is itself a reflection of the Chinese education system, or if folks like you are just not very good students.

June 6, 2010 @ 7:26 am | Comment

Living in a country means he must love this country? Leaving a country means he must hate it? Please explain this powerful logic.

June 6, 2010 @ 8:06 am | Comment

MAC, go carefully over pug’s commenting history here, and tell me if you think he actually hangs out in libraries.

Okay HX, I don’t want the thread to be derailed by this small point. So I will accept that Pug saw kids reading a book, somehow got a copy of that book into his own hands and actually read it or a portion of it, and was so heartbroken to see a reference to Tiananmen Square and democracy that he spent the night weeping. That sounds like pug.

Okay, back to the actual topic of the thread….

June 6, 2010 @ 8:34 am | Comment

Kevin the idiot from Pudong,

Why don’t you read my what I wrote before making stupid assumptions of what I wrote? Where did I mention ANYTHING about the Nanjing massacre or the boxer rebellion? I never said ANYTHING about censoring the 1989 incident from Chinese Textbooks. I said it was tragic because of how this incident was overstupified in a kids book in an American library. This incident wasn’t only about democracy, but rather about the failed reforms of the Chinese government itself.

Big MAC,

I never said that I actually used this book as ‘Show and Tell,’ but I said that looking for a book to use for a ‘show and tell’ and I happened to glanced at this book.

Seriously, some of you guys misconstrued what I said, maybe you guys need your grammar lessons.

June 6, 2010 @ 9:51 am | Comment

“Living in a country means he must love this country? Leaving a country means he must hate it?”
—and where has that been suggested, exactly? If anything, the scenario is more akin to living in a country that he apparently doesn’t much like, after leaving a country of which he is seemingly so fond. Why would someone do that? Hope that clears up the logic for you. Anything I can do to help. Either of you can answer that question BTW. Or not. Doesn’t much matter to me.

To Richard:
there’s going to be a memoir about 6/4, supposedly written by Li Peng, to be published out of HK later this month. You seem to be a voracious reader. Will that make it to the nightstand?

June 6, 2010 @ 10:07 am | Comment

SK, yesterday I tweeted about Li Peng’s memoir – yes, I will read it. I read Zhao Ziyang’s and I read the Tiananmen Papers, so this has to go on my list, too. From everything I’ve seen so far, it looks legitimate. And he’s alive, so if it’s fake he can always say so.

Pug, your last comment was too nasty to get published, but I promise you, I don’t mean to single you out and hurt your feelings. You have a pattern of coming on here and posting hilariously absurd material and then vanishing when you’re called to the carpet. We love you, but really, see your comments for what they are (comic relief).

June 6, 2010 @ 11:33 am | Comment

Pug, what was the name of the book? I’m having trouble tracking down a children’s book matching the desciption you gave.

June 6, 2010 @ 12:23 pm | Comment


I forgot the Author, but I recall that it was a hard bound book, and the title is simply called China. This book seems to be from a series of books from the same publisher about countries all over the world. I’ll go back to the library on Monday and I will let you know.

Resident Poet is a just a plan simple moron who does not understand why there are people out there who chant ‘Death to America.’ While I don’t agree with the statement ‘Death to America,’ I understand why people have some disdain towards America’s foreign policies. I thing I loathe is how ignorant how American books and media misrepresent the Tiananmen Square Massacre is when there is actually no people killed at Tianamen Square at June 3-4, 1989. I’m willing to bet that 90%+ of Americans did not know that. And when Americans say that we have free press, then why don’t we don’t know the truth. That’s why I think that this is ‘tragic.’ Our foreign policy is based on lies, fear, and ignorance.

June 6, 2010 @ 1:36 pm | Comment

Putz_ster’s stupidity is a long-standing, unsavory fact of life here at TPD. That he is also a liar is new info and musn’t be tolerated. I recommend that putz_ster produce proof of this “kids book with large words and lots of illustrations” or be banned for ever after. (Like several others here, I am incredulous to learn that putz_ster possesses both a library card and a daughter.)

I did some searching, and the only book I could find that came at all close to satisfying putz_ster’s description is <> by Andrew Langley (Compass Point Books, 2009), which is described as “juvenile non-fiction” appropriate for readers aged 9-12. Although this book is apparently aimed at young readers, it is far too sophisticated to be described as a “kid’s book,” nor is it full of “large words and lots of illustrations.” On the contrary, it is full of long words and lots of photos/charts. Indeed, in spite of the publisher’s description, I would be utterly shocked to find an American 12 year-old reading this book.

Much of Langley’s book can be viewed on Google books.

June 6, 2010 @ 11:18 pm | Comment

The title of Langley’s book is “Tiananmen Square: Massacre Crushes China’s Democracy Movement.”

June 6, 2010 @ 11:29 pm | Comment

I guess people can decide for themselves, with reference to the Tiananmen Square Massacre, whether the massacre itself is of more significance, or the exact location where the killings occurred. If it’s the latter, then it seems reasonable to suggest that it be called the “Massacre in the Side-Streets by Tiananmen Square” instead. If it’s the former, then worrying about exact locations seems to miss the forest for the trees.

While it may be true that 90% of Americans may not know the exact location of where the killings occurred, I wonder if 90% of PRC citizens currently in China are aware that the massacre occurred at all. If we want to talk about lies and state-sanctioned ignorance, that might not be a bad place to start.

June 7, 2010 @ 12:30 am | Comment

Every year around 6/4, all the China watchers, the Western reporters, the human rights groups, the freedom activists, all put their hands on their crouch and get into position, and think “this is the year, this is the year protests will erupts and CCP will fall. Oh yea, oh yea, oh yea.” And every year passes and nothing happens, and they had to disappointingly let go of their hands, but always tell themselves, “ok, don’t worry, next year, next year we’ll definitely get some”. It’s just like someone who lives in a thin-walled apartment, and gets off work early every night, and puts his ear against the wall and have his recording device ready and think “oh yea, they are gonna do it tonight”. And day after day week after week year after year, he goes to bed with nothing happening next door.

On this issue, I must criticize the CCP, they are too evil, always teasing everyone.

June 7, 2010 @ 1:22 am | Comment

No one expects protests in mainland China. Absolutely no one. You are fantasizing. It’s like every year we mark Memorial Day or October 1 or May 1. I don’t think anyone does so to ignite others to protest anything, but to keep memories alive so the truth is preserved.

Also, I want to apologize to Kevin and others who pug insulted up above. If I had seen them earlier I would have deleted (and I still can if you’d like).

June 7, 2010 @ 1:29 am | Comment

To Red Star,
your pre-pubescent analogies are no doubt befitting of the mindset you obviously possess. If it’s any consolation, yours is not unique among the overseas Chinese who still worship at the altar of the CCP, albeit from a safe and comfortable distance afar.

June 7, 2010 @ 1:35 am | Comment

Breaking news: Two New Jersey men arrested at JFK airport while supposedly en route to join Al Shabab in Somalia.

Well, at least these people had a coherent worldview and acted in accordance with their beliefs. Can’t say that with regard to Pug and all the other CCP fans in the US… It makes no sense whatsoever to hate country X, love country Y and yet spend your entire life in country X (especially when no one’s forcing you!)

Come on, Pug, you can do it. Sell your stuff. Pack up. Start a new life in the PRC – the land of boundless promise! Hurry up while they still give visas to… Americans! 🙂 🙂 🙂 😉

June 7, 2010 @ 6:22 am | Comment

Well, at least these people had a coherent worldview and acted in accordance with their beliefs. Can’t say that with regard to Pug and all the other CCP fans in the US… It makes no sense whatsoever to hate country X, love country Y and yet spend your entire life in country X (especially when no one’s forcing you!)

I can only say, too simple, too naive.

June 7, 2010 @ 7:05 am | Comment

@Gan Lu + Richard, thanks. I am just emphasizing that the memory of June 4th *is* being kept alive in Hong Kong (while it isn’t in the mainland) – with the help of Victoria Park, Google, and, yes, Foursquare – and that we have “two systems” to thank for it. I, too, am worried about what happens in 2047 and, Gan Lu, I don’t think for a minute that Taiwan would get even the courtesy of two systems. Also, the “one country” part of “one country, two systems” doesn’t make me particularly happy … but, having said all that, Two Systems clearly better than having HK be part of One System.

June 7, 2010 @ 8:07 am | Comment

To Jenny,
I read western reports anticipating a crowd of 50,000 at the 6/4 commemoration in HK, then read reports that an actual 115,000 showed up. Are those figures accurate based on what you saw?

What’s your feeling about the recent democracy referendum? It seems the turnout for that was less than some had hoped.

June 7, 2010 @ 9:06 am | Comment

I can only say, too simple, too naive.

You mean you are only capable of this kind of reply? haha.

June 7, 2010 @ 11:03 am | Comment

First of all, people were killed in the square and its immediate vicinity. Please refer to the unofficial white paper on the Beijing Massacre published out of New York last year.
Second, as SK Cheung said, referring only to the location is missing the forest for the trees. I wouldn’t question the Nanjing Massacre if I found that a lot of the killings took place across the river (which many in fact did). So why is there this need for absolute “precision” in location all of the sudden? And why do people only say “no one was killed in the square” while conveniently failing to mention that hundreds or even thousands were killed in the thoroughfares leading into the square? Anyone who overlooks the second part is doing a disservice to those who were killed.

June 7, 2010 @ 11:24 am | Comment

Kevin, that’s a big sticking point with the fenqing, an example of huge media bias against China, as if whether they were in the square proper or around the corner makes much of a difference. There were early erroneous reports, as there always are with rapidly breaking news, of tanks coming into the square, and people got the impression that all the killing actually took place there. They inflate that into the main issue (the early media reports) and point to it as proof that the media maligns China and tells fake stories to make them look bad. Not to worry. There were plenty of bad things that happened that night, and the precise street address where it happened is not the issue.

June 7, 2010 @ 1:27 pm | Comment

@Pug: I thing I loathe is how ignorant how American books and media misrepresent the Tiananmen Square Massacre is when there is actually no people killed at Tianamen Square at June 3-4, 1989

I’m unclear about the above comment. Are you suggesting that nobody was killed by PLA troops in Beijing on June 3/4, 1989? Or that the name “Tiananmen Square Massacre” is technically incorrect as people were killed by the PLA in the streets around Tiananmen Square and not in the square itself?

June 7, 2010 @ 8:06 pm | Comment

@SK Cheung, because I have lived across the street from Victoria Park for half a dozen years and therefore observe all of the protests about every topic under the sun, I’ve become a pretty good protest-attendee-statistician. But this time, alas – it was nighttime and I didn’t get a good birds-eye-view like I usually do. Still, my estimate is closer to 100,000 than 50,000. As for the would-be “referendum” a few weeks ago – well, there were 4 possible ways you could vote: (a) vote for Civic Party or one of the pan-democrats = vote for democracy; (b) vote for pro-Beijing = vote for status quo; (c) don’t vote = protest against the silly tactical trickery of the pan-democrats; (d) don’t vote = don’t care / didn’t get any of the get-out-the-vote lunchbox. The problem was that there was no way to distinguish between (c) and (d). We had just 17% participation rate as opposed to the usual 30-40%. But it’s difficult to say why.

June 7, 2010 @ 10:04 pm | Comment

Putz_ster: “I thing I loathe is how ignorant how American books and media misrepresent the Tiananmen Square Massacre is when there is actually no people killed at Tianamen Square at June 3-4, 1989…That’s why I think that this is ‘tragic.’”

There’s nothing particularly tragic about the common misperception that most of those killed during the events of 6/4 were students on the square. The real tragedy is that hundreds of people were killed within a kilometer or two (e.g., Fuxingmen) of Tiananmen Square by the PEOPLE’S LIBERATION Army. Likewise, the real tragedy is that most of China’s best and brightest students at Peking University today – the place where 6/4 began – know next to nothing of the events of June 1989, that the CCP has largely succeeded in erasing the “incident” from the collective memory of the Chinese people. Finally, the real tragedy is that many Chinese who do know something about 6/4 now rush to defend the actions of the government against those who advocate nothing more than a full accounting of events and an apology.

Defenders of the CCP and its handling of 6/4 frequently offer a false choice between killing protesters and allowing the government to collapse. The truth is that more creative minds among the Chinese leadership might have offered any number of alternative solutions to the conflict. The killings were completely unnecessary. Anyone who suggests otherwise is an idiot.

As for the idea that no students/people were killed on the square, there are different views. In his book “Quelling the People,” Professor Timothy Brook interviews a number of people who claim to have witnessed the killing of people on Tiananmen Square itself. In addition, there are also widespread claims that the Monument to the People’s Heroes (人民英雄纪念碑) at the center of the square was damaged by gunfire and had to be repaired.

The difference between students killed on the square and workers killed hundred of meters away is a relatively minor distinction. It’s worth remembering 6/4 every year, if only because it reminds us all that the legitimacy of the CCP is founded as much on its monopoly on violence as it is on economic growth.

Finally, Putz_ster, your English is also a tragedy, as is the idea that you are the parent of an impressionable young child who will likely grow up to share your perverse worldview.

June 7, 2010 @ 11:24 pm | Comment

[Nasty part deleted.] If you must know what boot it is:


It is in page 56-57.

June 8, 2010 @ 2:26 am | Comment

Okay, now that you know the book and page number you have to take it to the final step: What does it say that you found “tragic”? This should be very easy to do.

But here’s the thing. As I said way up above, even if pug were telling the truth, can we have such a strong reaction over an assertion in a children’s book that “Chinese people were killed fighting for democracy”? Like I said, this is more right than it is wrong. They were killed because they protested for reform – economic reform, mainly, and the right to have a say in their government. And it’s not that surprising that the TSM meme is that students were fighting for democracy, an impression that was immortalized by some English-speaking students who wrote much publicized signs extolling democracy, culminating in the wheeling in of the Goddess of Democracy. So the statement is not complete, but it’s not false, either. Whatever it is, this sentence you tell us about is certainly not “tragic.”

This is a good example of a troll taking over an entire thread with a side-story that then becomes the entire thread.

June 8, 2010 @ 3:00 am | Comment

Putz_ster: “I just saw a kids book with large words and lots of illustrations about China describing many Chinese people fighting for democracy and got killed over it.”

The offensive book in question is entitled “People’s Republic of China: Enchantment of the World”? Hardly prejudicial, if you ask me. And at 144 pages, the offensive bits you speak of comprise less than 2 percent of the text. You go on in your earlier comment about “lots of illustrations describing Chinese people fighting for democracy”? Exactly how many illustrations appear on pages 56 and 57, Putz_ster? It seems to me that this is a fairly laudatory book by a well-known publishing house not known for controversy. A similar book about the United States might very well include chapters on slavery, the Great Depression, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc. You’re a big f*cking baby, Putz_ster.

Your reaction to the 2 pages in the book about the events of June 1989 – not to mention your apparent belief that the tragedy surrounding the events has more to do with American misunderstanding of who was killed (and where) than with the deaths themselves – says much more about you than it does about this book and whether it is appropriate reading material for a sixth grader.

Putz_ster, you are badly damaged. As I said before, your English and worldview both stink. Do everyone a favor and drag your sorry stupid ass back to Blog for China.

June 8, 2010 @ 7:08 am | Comment

Can we change the subject? Feeding the trolls is a waste of time. I’d better put up a new post soon.

June 8, 2010 @ 8:24 am | Comment

Richard: “Feeding the trolls is a waste of time.”

Why not simply ban Putz_ster & Co.? I honestly don’t get it – entire threads are hijacked by losers like Putz. An intelligently argued contrarian view is one thing; innanities of the sort offered up by Putz are quite another. This isn’t a free speech issue – after all, this is still your blog, and you are not the government – no one has a constitutional right to post here. Put a gag on Putz_ster, why don’t you.

June 8, 2010 @ 12:27 pm | Comment

Gan Lu, I thought about that same question today. And I’m thinking about it now. I feel better after finally banning Merp (and this time it is final, something I’ve never said before) and pug and Hong Xing may well be next. But would you still comment here if they were gone? Would we still have threads?

June 8, 2010 @ 12:47 pm | Comment

To Richard:
I think that’s a delicate balance you seek. Nothing is more dull than an echo-chamber. It’s better to have your views challenged, so that you are forced to examine them, and hopefully refine them when the need arises. Of course, far better that they be challenged intelligently, rather than in a nuisance manner. That last part is the trickiest, and the least within your control.

June 8, 2010 @ 1:20 pm | Comment

I know that this may be taken as disingenuous, as I have eagerly gotten into quite a few arguments with merp and his type, but I really think that there would be more quality comments and quality discussion if others like Merp were gone. I would really rather discuss the topic at hand instead of disproving blatant lies and reciprocating personal insults.
To be honest, there have been weeks during which I’ve felt that there is no need to visit this site, as all that I might receive is a few snark personal comments in response to my own. This is not your fault: once one person says something ridiculous, it’s not always easy to get back on track, detracting from the broader point of your quite useful post above. If useless trolls are banned, comments may be somewhat less numerous at first, but perhaps having already established this site, quality should override quantity. It’s not my place to advise on site management, but I think that you have a fairly reliable group of fairly reasonable people who might breathe a collective sigh of relief at not having to read Merp’s BS, which did not provide any real contribution to the discussion.
On the other hand, I must admit that I learn a lot from merp, putz, and their type- not that I learn anything of value about what they’re “debating,” but rather how they debate. In this thread alone, the distractions of the children’s book, the location of massacre, etc. really demonstrate how some people are willing to use any excuse to distract from the fact that people were brutally killed in June of 1989 for no justifiable reason, and that this issue remains looming over contemporary China. Why do such “patriots” want to deny the death of their own fellow countrymen? This question seems quite interesting…

June 8, 2010 @ 1:29 pm | Comment

Kevin, I don’t disagree. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. It will be a big change, as this site is Troll Central. But I’m going to do it. The worst that will happen is there will be fewer comments. Thanks.

June 8, 2010 @ 1:34 pm | Comment

It’s a tough choice, but it boils down to whether people contribute meaningfully or usually just disrupt things. Either way I’m sure that Richard will make the right decision.

By the way, has anyone noticed a slightly larger number of people wearing white recently? Or is any change not noticeable?

June 8, 2010 @ 8:37 pm | Comment

Richard –

On the one hand, you encourage us not to respond to trolls; on the other, you ask if I’ll still comment if Putz_ster is banned. It seems that you are of two minds on the issue.

I’m not suggesting that you impose a blanket ban on wildly off-topic comments of the sort that often appear here. But I think that you might consider banning stupidy of the sort that is the stock and trade of losers like Putz_ster.

Some threads are interesting precisely because of their non-linear nature; others are ruined by it.

In the end, I’m simply disgusted by flag-waving bullshit artists like Putz_ster. His comments offer absolutely nothing of substance to the discussion. As for you, I see no benefit to being the blogger who allows everyone to say whatever they want, no matter how stupid.

June 9, 2010 @ 12:18 am | Comment

Gan Lu, I said not to feed the trolls because I thought we were just spinning our wheels with all these comments on the book that broke putz’s heart. But you have a point I am ambivalent, because I want Chinese people to participate in the conversation and to hear both sides. But I decided last week, when I finally banned merp, that they had turned my blog into something I don’t want it to be, one big mud wrestling match. I’m ready to end that.

Anyone notice that putz never gave us the lines from the book that he found so tragic?

June 9, 2010 @ 12:41 am | Comment

I would applaud the decision. I’ve followed this blog for the better half of a decade, and have watched engaging near-trolls drive the conversation forward along with the rest of the crowd while pushing the civility envelope until they were banned.

Then… the room cleared out somehow. The trolls who were left posted obvious monkey-wrenches and rabbit-trails, and the other people left responded every time– like a cat will sometimes bat and bat at her favorite toy, long after tiring of the game, because someone’s still jiggling it. (The actual cat I’m thinking of destroyed that toy, fur and fluff, later that evening.)

I’m guessing it’s the same reason as for why I’d never posted before: simple discouragement. I’d early on dubbed the Oughties “the Decade People Listened to Bullies”– I guess the same was true of trolls.

I’m guessing discourse will flourish once again here.

June 9, 2010 @ 10:39 am | Comment

Thanks Jonathan. The decision has been made. No career trolls like putz and merp and Red Star allowed.

However, if pug wants to come on and give us the quote from that book that made him all weepy I will allow it. Until he does, I consider the entire story to be one of his signature fantasies.

June 9, 2010 @ 11:03 am | Comment


June 12, 2010 @ 4:48 am | Comment

So much for getting Li Peng’s memoirs out into the open.


I wonder if the CCP would try to suppress his memoirs if his accounts were false. I wonder if any of those “advance copies” will make it onto ebay.

June 20, 2010 @ 1:54 pm | Comment

Why am I not surprised?

June 20, 2010 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

Despite the block on the Li Peng diaries, it is widely available on the Internet in PDF form already (in simplified Chinese). I just downloaded it yesterday, but lost the link. I will look it back up.

June 21, 2010 @ 1:03 pm | Comment

FYI- link here:

June 21, 2010 @ 1:08 pm | Comment

[…] and lavishes praise on everything China, including the Great Leap Forward and, needless to say, the TSM. He rejects the creativity of the West in favor of the “discipline” of the East. He […]

September 2, 2010 @ 9:07 am | Pingback

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