I’ve been silent since January, in part due to other commitments and partly due to engaging more on China matters through Twitter and Facebook contacts. Plus, I really wanted my first post since my wife’s pregnancy was confirmed to be the wandering thoughts of a father-to-be. Alas, having waited long enough to have confirmed the sex of my offspring, we now find ourselves on the cusp of that troublesome anniversary again.
And I’m not about to let that pass without comment – nor should anyone with an interest in China and access to a medium through which they can freely express themselves. So, more briefly than in previous years, here goes:
Peter Foster at the Telegraph recently posed the question: Did the tanks of Tiananmen bring stability to China, or store up trouble for the future? It’s a reasonable question if it leads to rational back-and-forth about what happened 22 years ago, and given that Tiananmen ’89 has never been a black and white issue, all the more need for open discourse. But here’s the thing: as ever, the one place where the events surrounding ’89 are a debate-free zone is the one place where such discourse could make a difference. And not just for China and the Chinese.
This is why we must keep prodding Zhongnanhai and their sad multitude of hard-wired acolytes, however much it fries their restricted neural pathways. Having perpetrated an act of violence against innocent civilians that remains singly the most defining moment of China’s relentless economic, geopolitical and military growth, the CCP have failed to mature commensurate with their rising global influence. Instead, China’s ruling party have recently shown a renewed vigour for practising their penchant for punishing the dissenting voice.
Where will that end?
The influence Beijing already has reaches far and wide, and is all set to reach further still. China routinely puts pressure on foreign governments to prevent critics and activists from being allowed to express themselves or have their views heard by a wider audience. Beijing’s enormous economic leverage cannot be understated as a successful tool in this endeavour. How long before film/book/art festivals near you stop exhibiting the work of artists critical of Beijing altogether? How long before your children are reading from textbooks that toe Zhongnanhai’s line on historical ‘truth’? How long before global media outlets consign Tiananmen and other sensitivities to the ‘off limits’ folder?
I know what some are thinking: “Calm down, bro. It’ll never come to that.”
And that’s the prize of sticking a fire up Zhongnanhai’s ass every June. By refusing to forget the events of June 4th 1989 the freedoms that China’s leaders would happily deny all of us given half a chance are kept alive. Power of the magnitude now wielded by Beijing must not be allowed silence uncomfortable discourse or airbrush inconvenient history. Ever.
Once again the defiance of the people of Hong Kong in remembering each year is inspirational.