FILE - In this early June 4, 1989 file photo, a student protester puts barricades in the path of an already burning armored personnel carrier that rammed through student lines during an army attack on pro-democracy protesters on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Thirty years since the Tiananmen Square protests, China’s economy has catapulted up the world rankings, yet political repression is harsher than ever. (AP Photo/Jeff Widener, File)

China handles Tiananmen anniversary with usual silence

China imposed an information lockdown on the 30th anniversary of its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters

Dissidents silenced. Security tightened. References scrubbed from the internet.

China imposed an information lockdown Tuesday on the 30th anniversary of its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, a stark reminder that three decades later, the possibility of democratic change has all but evaporated.

Extra checkpoints and street closures greeted tourists who showed up before 5 a.m. to watch the daily flag-raising ceremony at the square in the centre of Beijing. People overseas found themselves blocked from posting anything to a popular Chinese social media site.

China has largely succeeded in wiping the events of June 3-4, 1989, from the public consciousness at home, where the anniversary of the crackdown passed like any other weekday. To Western critics, who this year included U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, China has a simple answer: Our model works.

“The Chinese government has long had a clear conclusion about the political disturbance that occurred in the late 1980s,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said in response to Pompeo. China’s economic success “fully proves that the development path we chose is completely correct and has been firmly supported by the people.”

The seven-week-long Tiananmen Square protests and their bloody end, in which hundreds if not thousands of people are believed to have died, snuffed out a tentative shift in China toward political liberalization.

The mantra of the ruling Communist Party has become stability over all else, and the party says the stability it has delivered has been a necessary underpinning to the country’s economic growth.

For many Chinese, life is better. Incomes have risen, and social restrictions such as family size and where people can live have been loosened. It’s political freedom that remains strictly controlled.

Half a dozen activists could not be reached Tuesday by phone or text. One who could, Beijing-based Hu Jia, said he had been taken last week by security agents to the northeastern coastal city of Qinghuangdao.

Chinese authorities routinely take dissidents away on what are euphemistically called “vacations” or otherwise silence them during sensitive political times.

“This is a reflection of their fears, their terror, not ours,” Hu said.

READ MORE: Thousands in Hong Kong commemorate 1989 Tiananmen protests

Under current President Xi Jinping, the government has tightened control over everything from religion to the internet in an apparent bid to make the Communist Party central to the future of China.

“I don’t think that in the foreseeable future there is the possibility for another mass movement against the regime, because the system of control is so complete,” said Andrew Nathan, a professor of Chinese politics at Columbia University.

Chinese overseas reported on Twitter that they were blocked from posting on Weibo, a popular social networking site. Weibo did not respond to phone and email requests for comment.

Even those who know what happened 30 years ago are reluctant to talk about it in public. A 24-year-old designer said last week in Beijing that he thought it was quite a pity when he learned that many had died.

“But it’s really not convenient to talk about it,” he said, giving only the name he goes by in English, Tony.

Any commemoration of the event is not allowed in mainland China, though tens of thousands turned out for an annual candlelight vigil in Hong Kong. The Chinese territory has relatively greater freedoms than the mainland, though even there, activists are concerned about the erosion of those liberties in recent years.

Pompeo issued a statement Monday saluting what he called the “heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago … to demand their rights.” He said that U.S. hopes that China would become a more open and tolerant society have been dashed.

He and his European Union counterpart Federica Mogherini urged China to come clean on what happened and how many died.

“Acknowledgement of these events, and of those killed, detained or missing in connection with the Tiananmen Square protests, is important for future generations and for the collective memory,” Mogherini said in a statement.

Geng, the foreign ministry spokesman, said that “some people in the U.S. always regard themselves as others’ teachers and interfere in other countries’ internal affairs under the guise of so-called democracy and human rights, while turning a blind eye to problems at home. The Chinese people have seen through their hypocrisy and sinister intentions.”

The crackdown set the Communist Party on a path of repression, Nathan said, adding that China would likely be a very different place if the nation’s rulers had ended the protests peacefully through dialogue instead of by force.

“They embarked on a strategy of not dialoguing with the people,” he said. “The party knows best, the party decides, and the people have no voice. So that requires more and more intense repression of all of the forces in society that want to be heard.”

___

Associated Press journalists Christopher Bodeen and Yanan Wang in Beijing and Yong Jun Chang in Seoul, South Korea, contributed.

Ken Moritsugu, The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The third photograph of Robert Johnson

An old photograph comes to light — a reminder that mythology is real and the past is still alive

East Kootenay snow packs still moderately high

EK snow packs at 114 per cent of normal

City launches guide to help simplify development processes

A new guide that provides information and background on development applications and… Continue reading

A second wave of COVID-19 is probable, if history tells us anything

B.C.’s top doctor says that what health officials have learned this round will guide response in future

Car stolen from Cranbrook airport

Cranbrook RCMP are investigating a report of a stolen vehicle. The 2020… Continue reading

VIDEO: Procession to honour Snowbirds Capt. Jennifer Casey comes to Halifax

Snowbirds service member died in a crash in Kamloops one week ago

Bike shops busier than ever, but owners worry about stock supply issues

Uptick in cyclists brings new challenges for shops

RCMP facing ‘systemic sustainability challenges’ due to provincial policing role

Provinces, territories and municipalities pay anywhere from 70 to 90 per cent of the cost of the RCMP’s services

One man dead after standoff with Chilliwack RCMP

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the RCMP’s role in the death

B.C. employers worry about safety, cash flow, second wave in COVID-19 restart

A survey found 75 per cent of businesses worry about attracting customers

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Ex-BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver says province came close to early election

Disagreement centred on the LNG Canada project in northern B.C.

Canada’s NHL teams offer options to season-ticket holders

Canadian teams are offering refunds, but also are pushing a number of incentives to let them keep the money

B.C. premier says lessons to learn from past racism during response to pandemic

B.C. formally apologized in the legislature chamber in 2008 for its role in the Komagata Maru tragedy

Most Read