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I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that 20 years have passed since the Chinese massacred hundreds or thousands of protesters in Tinananmen Square.
Calling it a “square” probably conjures up the wrong image: it’s the biggest city square in the world at 40.5 ha or 100 acres. It’s 880×500 metres or almost the area of 63 rugby fields and contains such delights as a brutalist mausoleum containing the embalmed body of Mao Zedong and the Monument to the People’s Heroes. It’s in the centre of Beijing, next to the Great Hall of the People (where China’s farcical version of a parliament meets) and is across the road from the former imperial palace, commonly known as the Forbidden City. So it’s a place loaded with history and symbolism that’s able to hold a great many people. It’s believed that a million people gathered there for the June Fourth Movement of 1989.
As we all know, the Communist Party of China didn’t like these protests so sent in troops, tanks and so forth to ensure that the people Party retained control. What has been interesting is how the Party has reacted on the twentieth anniversary. There’s a huge police and/or military prescence, they’re keeping journalists out, and dissidents have been effectively placed under house arrest. Below there’s a link to a tragicomic video where security staff are trying to block BBC cameras with umbrellas – and that’s outside the Square.
The events of 1989 do not appear in textbooks and children born around that time or afterward know little or nothing about it (see link below). I am reminded of the Memory Hole in Orwell’s 1984.
Twenty years after the massacre nothing has changed because truth, free speech and freedom of association clearly remain persona non grata in China. On the bright side, all these security measures indicate some trembling on the part of the Party, which rightly fears the people because only a government that is truly a servant of the people has no need to fear them.
- State thugs using umbrellas to block TV cameras
- State thugs keeping journalists out and controlling public entry
- Slide show of images and audio from 1989
- BBC interactive map of Tiananmen Square with pictures and video, including man confronting tanks
- John Simpson’s memories of 1989 plus amazing video
- Young people of China share what they know about the massacre
- Tiananmen Square on Wikipedia
- 1989 massacre on Wikipedia
- Google map of central Beijing
What are your thoughts regarding the events of 1989 and today?