[Update from the Editor: We apologize for the unavailability of this post for the past 24 hours. The post was taken down for an internal review. It was found that the post serves purely as an informational piece meant to highlight an upcoming book and other relevant publications now available in the Public Libraries. Hence, we are proud to restore the piece with only edits for length and an additional link to an editorial by a state-run Chinese paper on why China chooses to censor the internet and general media in regard to Tiananmen. Thank you for reading.]
As we approach the 25th anniversary of the historic events that unfolded in Tiananmen Square on June 3 and 4, China shows the world how the game of media control is played. It has already rounded up and detained a number of activists and political commentators deemed likely to incite unrest; numerous English and Chinese news sites and online services have been blocked and all possible relevant terms and derived permutations in online searches and social media such as “four,” “open fire,” and “25 years” have already been deleted by state censors. The Chinese counterpart of Wikipedia, Baike, has no entry for the Tiananmen Square events.
Interestingly, the situation in Hong Kong throws the notion of “one country, two systems” into stark relief. The former British colony – which was returned to Chinese rule in 1997 – is preparing to hold its annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square events of June 4, 1989. The event is expected to draw more than 150,000 participants, while local universities and other organizations are sponsoring talks, exhibitions, and film screenings in connection with the commemoration. Many Hong Kongers (including those who migrated from the mainland) are also planning gatherings in their homes for the remembrance.
Another interesting contrast is Taiwan. In recent years, Taiwan and China have been steadily closing the political rift between the two countries. However, people will gather at Taipei’s Liberty Square for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square events. According to the organizers, the program also includes speeches, videos, and music performances.
Certain commentators and activists are confident that China’s efforts will come to nought, but there are strong indications that the Chinese “Death Star” of social history may have already won. One-third of China’s present population was born after the Tiananmen Square events, and most who were alive during the events are reluctant to even broach the subject. This means a large percentage of under-25 Chinese are very likely unaware.
In what can be considered an official statement of sorts by Global Times (Global Times is a state-run paper), there are reasons offered for China’s censorship decision: “China has shielded relevant information in a bid to wield a positive influence on the smooth development of reform and opening-up. The generation that experienced the incident has developed a deeper understanding of it through China’s growth and such tragedies as the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.”
So if it’s possible to obliterate the memories of a nation, is it also possible for people as a nation to be haunted by repressed memories? Will a future generation of Chinese citizens start having unexplainable dreams or visions of a man, standing in front of a line of tanks, unyielding? Will they be told that they are simply remembering something that never happened?
There’s a new book out by journalist Louisa Lim that looks back at the Tiananmen events; hopefully it’ll be in the Public Libraries soon. In the meantime, check out these related books currently available in our libraries:
- Age of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth, and Faith in the New China by Evan Osnos
- Quelling the People: The Military Suppression of the Beijing Democracy Movement by Timothy Brook
- The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed by Michael Meyers
- Remaking Beijing: Tiananmen Square and the Creation of a Political Space by Wu Hung