That time of year again


The arrest of Ching Cheong in China a few days ago should remind us all that the shadow of Tiananmen Square still hangs heavy over China and just about all it does. (Some are saying the arrest was timed to intimidate discussion and discourage dissidents from seeking to draw attention to the June 4 anniversary.) It is still the defining event with which most in the world identify China. It still keeps China from buying arms from the EU, and it still ignites China’s dinosaurs into fits of apoplexy at its mere mention.

The TSM is at the heart of Cheong’s arrest. The statement from China’s Foreign Ministry is as believable as the 2002 official statements that SARS had been 100-percent eradicated.

“Ching admitted that in recent years he engaged in intelligence-gathering activities on the mainland on instructions from foreign intelligence agencies and accepted huge amounts of spying fees,” the statement said. “Currently, relevant departments are investigating his spying activities.”

But the government provided no evidence to support its allegations, and Ching’s wife, Mary Lau, denied her husband was a spy. She said security agents detained him after he traveled to the mainland to obtain a collection of interviews secretly conducted with Zhao Ziyang, the former Communist Party chief who was purged for opposing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and died in January after nearly 16 years under house arrest.

“It’s very clear to friends and relatives that Ching Cheong has been a thrifty and hardworking patriot since a young age,” she said. “We have no children and live plainly. Why would he engage in spying and hurt the country?”

Lau said she believed security agents tricked her husband, lured him to the mainland and detained him in an attempt to pressure him into revealing information about the politically sensitive manuscript and to intimidate other journalists and publishers from trying to obtain it.

Do any of us really believe Cheong gave a full confession, admitting he was spying? And do they really not understand that this is going to reignite the TSM debates, not quell them? Such obtuseness is hard to fathom, but I’m afraid it exists.

Some have said that there is an irony in that Cheong works for the Straits Times, which is subject to the whims of Singapore’s well-known censorship machine. However, Singapore’s track record of imprisoning and torturing journalists for their stories doesn’t quite compare to the PRC’s. The worst Singapore has done with foreign journalists has been to politely ask them to leave.

An interesting aspect of this depressing story is how the Straits Times has reacted.

A spokeswoman for the Straits Times expressed shock at the Chinese government’s allegation. “We have no cause to doubt that in all the years that Ching Cheong has worked with us, he has conducted himself with the utmost professionalism,” she said. “Until we see incontrovertible evidence, we stand by our belief that he has always acted in the best interests of The Straits Times.”

Does anyone else see this as a mealy-mouthed, ultra-carefully composed statement specifically designed not to offend anybody? It says nothing except they think Cheong has been a good employee — it doesn’t say a single word defending him or criticizing China for throwing their editor in jailn! What it does say is that the Straits Times (and perhaps the Singapore government, for which the paper often serves as a mouthpiece) is cowering and kowtowing in the face of an economically invincible China. How sad to see them shiver as they betray their own.

Thank God not everyone shivers in the wake of China’s strength. If only the Straits Times would see him as an example.

For some utterly horrifying and heartbreaking stories from survivors of the massacre, you should read this.

The Discussion: 17 Comments

Richard, where did you get that picture?

June 1, 2005 @ 6:56 pm | Comment

I copied it to my hard drive a year ago, but I believe it’s from this site.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

I scanned that pic about a year and a half ago, and put it on the blog. (Note my amateurish crooked scan- I suck at this stuff) It was taken by an American female backpacker in Beijing, and I am embarrassed to say I do not remember her name. I met her at the Beijing hotel in late May 1989, and then ran into her again on June 7 in Hong Kong, when foreigners were scattering out of China. She let me make prints of a bunch of pics she had taken, which ended up in storage in the U.S. for years when I came to Taiwan.

Anyway, it’s good to see you put it to good use. Let me know if you want the rest, I’ll E-mail ’em to you.


June 1, 2005 @ 7:18 pm | Comment

Please send them over; I’d love to see them.

June 1, 2005 @ 7:19 pm | Comment

The June 4th roundup

The approach of June 4 means it’s that time of year: arrest time. First it was Ching Cheong. Now Reuters is reporting the arrest of members of the Chinese Acadamey of Social Sciences, one of the country’s top think-tanks. As usual, no one is quite sure…

June 2, 2005 @ 2:14 am | Comment

I’ve noticed an increasing tendency to refer to the Massacre, even in the international press, as the “Tiananmen Square Incident’. In fact, a friend’s Chinese teacher referred to it once as the Tiananmen Square Accident, and then tried to defend her choice of word! I think this may have something to do with increasing Chinese government influence in debates concerning human rights in China, and when it occurs I think it needs to be confronted and the that that it was a massacre must be insisted on at all costs.

June 2, 2005 @ 2:20 am | Comment

Hmmm … I tend to use the term “incident” myself in teaching environments … because I often try to get students to see things from the other point of view. For the same reason, I also refer to the Nanjing incident … and I can see certain Chinese people turning blue already, at my temerity. Recently, I found a great website … of a right-wing Japanese, denying the Nanjing Massacre, the comfort women etc … I mean, you hear about this kind of thing all the time in the media, but to find an actual source of it. Really quite incredible. (And I’m calling it “great” because it’s interesting, not good.)

June 2, 2005 @ 9:36 am | Comment

The ‘Tiananmen Incident’ took place in 1976. It’s at best misleading to use this phrase to refer to the events of 1989, and at worst it plays right into the hands of the Chinese Government in their attempts to have the massacre recorded in the history books of the world as something much more ambiguous than pure cold-blooded butchery of their own people.

June 2, 2005 @ 10:26 pm | Comment

Sory, I’ve just noticed the coincidence of names. I am not the proprietor of this site. Is it possible to change the owner of those comments to ‘rwillmsen’? Sorry and thanks.

June 2, 2005 @ 10:30 pm | Comment

That wasn’t really an ‘incident’ either, whatever that means. They BEHEADED 60 people!!!

June 2, 2005 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

Interesting link – I hadn’t heard of the beheadings before. Whin I use the word “incident” I do so with quote marks, to drive home that the CCP trivializes a great crime by blandly calling it “an incident.”

June 3, 2005 @ 7:42 am | Comment

Hey Richard is it possible that you deleted my comment, why?

June 3, 2005 @ 11:40 am | Comment

Shulan, I didn’t delete any comments. Are you sure it got posted? Please repost if possible.

This is all I can think of: I deleted several spam comments this miorning and may have accidentally included yours. If so, I’m terribly sorry.

June 3, 2005 @ 1:16 pm | Comment

16 years later

photo via glutter (this post will be updated throughout the day.) Horse’s Mouth has several posts on now and then. Glutter has photos from Hong Kong and a new banner. Also, Yan makes an excellent point about the photo

June 4, 2005 @ 2:36 am | Comment

No problem. Wasn’t that important. Just wanted to say that the oldest propaganda trick in the world -just repeat a message as often as you can, so in the end everybody believes you or at leat thinks that something of that what you said must be true cause everybody else is talking about it – seems to work quite well still.

June 4, 2005 @ 6:31 am | Comment

This is what the Republican party has been doing for years – Reagan and Bush jr. are masters of it.

June 9, 2005 @ 1:07 am | Comment

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