Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Remembering Tienanmen Square June 1989 and the courage of those who defied Chinese tanks

Photograph by Stuart Franklin/Magnum.

The photo on the right was taken from a different vantage point and shows the man in the background preparing to confront the tanks (AP Photo Terril Jones)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the brutal Chinese crackdown in Tienanmen Square.

The iconic image of that event is the photo of a single unidentified man holding two shopping bags who steps in defiance of a line of army tanks heading to Tienanmen Square.

All through the months of April and May 1989 Chinese students and pro-democracy activists protested in Beijing and other parts of the country. The protests were triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, a liberal reformer, who was deposed after a power struggle with hardliners over the direction of political and economic reform in China.

In early May, the protestors occupied Tienanmen Square and demanded government accountability and greater democratic and press freedom. The students and pro-democracy protesters filled the square for weeks, initiating hunger strikes and other forms of protest activities.

On the nights of the 3rd and 4th June 1989 the Chinese Government enforced martial law. 

Massive troop and tank movements around the square began, concluding in an all-out assault that culminated in retaking Tienanmen Square and surrounding areas. 

Thousands of protesters and citizens heading to join the protest in Tienanmen Square were killed and injured after the People's Liberation Army opened fire on unarmed and peaceful protesters.

this photo shows the same man defying a long line of tanks (by Arthur Tsang)

Riots ensued around the Square and throughout the capital.

The authorities proceeded to carry out mass arrests. Some people were executed and others just disappeared. An estimated 1600 were imprisoned for long periods, and 2 remain in prison 25 years later. Others were politically punished and lost jobs and positions. Many of the student leaders were forced to flee China.

The Tienanmen Square massacre and its aftermath initiated a new era of conservatism in China that continues to this day.

Various slide shows of the 1989 events at Tienanmen Square are herehere and here.

Twenty five years later, the Chinese Government are trying to prevent any mention or discussion of the uprising and the massacres by locking up, charging or harassing artists, scholars, lawyers, bloggers and relatives of victims.

Chinese citizens involved in the uprising and those who try to remember the events of 25 years ago continue to suffer persecution.

Amnesty has recorded the names of Chinese activists targeted by the Chinese authorities in the lead up to the anniversary. This includes scores of detentions and house arrest and people being charged with offences carrying prison terms for holding private memorial gatherings for the dead.

The New York Review of Books has this interview with Hu Jia, who was just 15 at the time he participated in the Tienanmen Square demonstrations. He is currently under house arrest in China over his attempt to organize a commemoration of the massacre protest activities.

The Guardian has this article, featuring interviews with 3 leaders of the 1989 protests who were forced to flee China in 1989.

No comments: