Wednesday, June 4, 2014

RIP Tank man and all victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre

Let us not forget what happened 25 years ago today. Here is an iconic picture to serve as a reminder.

On 4 June 1989, the world -- outside of China -- saw this image of a lone man staring down a procession of tanks in Tiananmen Square, the main square of Beijing, the capital of Communist China. What happened to him is unknown, but he's presumed to have died, along with hundreds of students and other young people who were demonstrating for democracy and freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech, not to mention democracy, remains unknown in China. The so-called "People's Republic" remains in the iron grip of the Communist Party. Censorship is so complete that most of today's university students have never heard of Tiananmen Square and "the events of 6.4.89", as the massacre is known. When Walt was teaching in China, some years ago, we foreign teachers were forbidden -- on pain o9f dismissal and deportation -- to even mention "the three T's": Taiwan, Tibet and Tiananmen Square.

Those few students who had heard of the massacre had been brainwashed to think that the quelling of the demonstration -- it wasn't even an uprising, you understand -- somehow helped the development of a modern, prosperous China! Today, there will be demonstrations in Hong Kong, where a limited amount of free speech is still allowed. But in China proper, Tiananmen Square will not be mentioned. The Communists have succeeded in erasing it from the public consciousness.

However, the grim story remains alive in the West, thanks in part to the efforts of media like Frontline, the flagship public affairs series of American public broadcaster PBS. Frontline has produced an excellent documentary on Tiananmen Square called "The Tank Man". Click here and follow the links to watch it online. (Sorry, not available to Chinese IP addresses.)

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