The Tiananmen Square Massacre, also known as the June 4th incident which took place in the year 1989, is regarded as one of the darkest phase in the history of China. It was a student led demonstration, which eventually was joined by the middle class working people.
The protest was crushed down brutally by the government after declaring martial law in the country. The event has since then come to be known as the Tiananmen Square massacre The military forces fired on the demonstrators, ran over them by tanks, arrested, tortured and executed them at will. The toll of deaths and injured reached tens of thousands in number, yet the number in the official report was less than 300.
Due to strict censorship of the media, both local and international, that were covering the event at the Tiananmen Square, the reality of the numbers was never known. Even today there are high degree restrictions on freedom of information, the media and freedom of expression and speech. And it is how the Communist Party of China (CCP) has successfully had their monopoly over all the aspects of the society.
The students protest was also seen as a political threat, a threat to the ideology of the CCP on which it was based. The phenomena which triggered the masses to protest were both political as well as economic. But it accelerated after the death of Hu Yaobang in April 15,1989 who was the General Secretary of the Communist party. He was also known to be pro-reform who tried to bring in changes in the Communist ideology and practices. He was later forced to resign from his position. There were clashes and differences in opinions and power struggle within the party about the protest.
Even if we look at the situation of China today, not much has changed. Maintaining the supremacy and the ideology of the CCP seems more significant than the voices of its citizens. With all the history of records of oppression and brutality by the government which is an open secret against the people opposing their views and ideology, it was controversial to appoint China in the Human rights council panel by the UN.
A report said, “Chris Smith a US representative, a senior member of the House committee on foreign affairs and ranking member of the congressional executive commission on china said that “ There is no justification whatsoever in empowering a Chinese government official, Jiang Duan, to investigate human rights abuses until there is a reckoning with regard to China’s own record”.(source: Eleanor Albert, the diplomat,2020)
Even after 31 years, the Tiananmen Square Massacre still feels raw and fresh, yet they are never publicly debated or discussed. The CCP has zero tolerance for activists who are fighting for their human rights. Hence we see a number of cases of activists being detained, arrested as they fight for their rights. One such example is the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize winner for his continuous struggle for fundamental rights in China, Liu Xiaobo ,who was arrested in 2008 and sentenced for 11 years on charges of “inciting subversion”.
He was also one of the person protesting during the pro democracy movement in Tiananmen Square and was arrested and jailed for 21 months. In July 2017 he died because of liver cancer complications. In 2011 Chen Wei and Chen Xi, who were also pro democracy activists, were imprisoned for years. Huang Qi, founder of “64 Tianwang”, a website for human rights, was detained and the trial was completed in utmost secrecy. In 2016, Miao Deshun was released after serving 27 years in prison because of his participation in the 1989 movement (source: Human rights activism in post Tiananmen China, May 30,2019).
It is understood how desperately the Communist government wants to wipe off any chances of mass revolt right from its bud. Hence they are still threatened by them. It is also ironic how one is regarded as criminal and stripped off their human rights when they speak up for their rights whilst those in power can step on them and taste the power of freedom without having the fear of being questioned.
Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, restrictions on the Internet were increased so that the information about the situation in China could not go out there to the world. There were however a few leaked videos and information that surfaced in the internet. The person in the video was very sure that the government might come after him.
He was scared of his life yet he was determined to let the world know the real situation of the pandemic in China. Similarly 31 years back they had to smuggle recordings and videos of the Tiananmen Square Massacre so that they could broadcast it to the world. Quoting a demonstrator, he said “go and show it to the world”. It only goes on to show that a lot has changed over the years and yet, everything remains the same.
China is gradually taking the position of a super power which is alarming to the world as a whole. The situation in America, the world superpower, is very grim at the moment due to its political and civil unrest which has seen the state clash the civilians. There, too, the police is using brute force to suppress the protests. The lives of the protesters are at stake at the moment. The demonstrators of the pro democracy movement in China 1989 did not know the extent of damage that the government planned for them.
Although the economic condition has become very favourable now but the gap between the rich and the poor has substantially increased. Hence the question regarding who is benefiting more from it is easily answerable. The incident did not bring any drastic reformations in terms of the Communist political ideology but it has shed light on the flaws of the government as well as why “who in power” is very important because that makes a huge difference.
The article was authored by Ms LAWN WEINGKEN, a guest lecturer in MDKI Girls College, Dibrugarh, Assam. She is also associated with Centre for North East Studies, New Delhi.