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June 3 marked the 30th anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. Even today, the Chinese government does not recognize the killing
In Latin America, we know about the excesses of violence. Our continent has gone through dictatorships that disappear activists to governments that kill civilians and then pass them off as guerrillas to empires that have exterminated entire cultures. Still today, there are people killed in manifestations, such as those in Nicaragua in recent months, or those in Haiti in February when the president was demanded to resign.
There are also specific populations that tend to be victims of these attacks, mainly those that express their discontent with the status quo. Within these are the students, those young people who still think that change is possible and have not yet been invaded by the fear or comfort of the elderly.
One of the most famous examples is the massacre in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas of Tlatelolco in Mexico City. This happened on the night of October 2, 1968, when snipers and armed officers began firing at protesters. The figures are not clear, but there is an approximate between 150 and 350 victims, as El País reports.
As Latin Americans, we can identify and show solidarity with the Tiananmen Massacre in China, whose commemoration was a few days ago. Here we make a brief tour about what happened that night of June 3, 1989, in Beijing.
Students vs. government tanks
Everything started a few weeks before, in the middle of April. Both students, workers and intellectuals, thousands of them, took to the streets and symbolic places were taken, as the entrance to the Forbidden City. The protesters, recalls El País, demanded "greater transparency to the Government and political reforms, and complained about the great corruption and the economic situation," which ultimately translates to the establishment of a democratic government to replace the logic of the government Maoist they had for more than 30 years. For this reason, it is known in history as the 1989 Prodemocratic Movement.
Everything seemed to be going well, people went out into the street with hopes of change, but everything began to change on May 20. That day, the government decreed a state of emergency and began to mobilize troops, both tanks, and soldiers into Beijing. The tone of the threats was growing little by little, as on May 22, when they launched brochures from helicopters warning that they had to vacate Tiananmen Square. However, the students continued and decided to occupy that same square. With camps and even with the construction of a statue of 'the goddess of democracy', this place became the main site of protest.
"It was the most peaceful protest in history (…) it was so peaceful, that even thieves stopped stealing, it is not a joke" says Zhou Fengshou, student leader during the demonstrations that he had to go into exile in the United States after being on the blacklist of the Chinese government, in YouTube interview with China Uncensored. However, the night of June 3 arrived and the soldiers of the People's Liberation Army entered with tanks with the only one in order to evict the plaza.
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The result: around 1000 killed by shots and crushed by armored vehicles. Fengshou describes it this way: "It was like a wall. On the one hand, there are peaceful students with no weapons. On the other hand, fully-armed troops, and elite troops, of the communist government, with tanks and machine guns". This lasted all night, and on the morning of June 4, the hope for change had died and in the square was no longer anyone.
Censorship and forgetting of the massacre
To this day, the Chinese Government has not accepted that a massacre has happened and continues to claim that it was an act of necessary repression of violent students. As justified by China's defense minister, Wei Fenghei, in statements given at a regional forum in Singapore collected by the BBC, "the incident was political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence."
This negationist attitude is evident in the crossing of words that had Mike Pompeo and the Chinese embassy in the US, whose extracts were reflected in The New York Times after the Secretary of State published a statement in support of the commemoration of the massacre and criticized the Chinese Government for not clarifying it. In it, Pompeo declares: "we salute the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights. Their exemplary courage has served as an inspiration to future generations calling for freedom and democracy around the world".
To this, the spokesman of the Chinese Embassy replied: "the Chinese people have the best say on China. Their pursuit of a better life cannot be stopped by any force. Whoever attempt to patronize and bully the Chinese people in any name, or preach a "clash of civilizations" to resist the trend of times will never succeed. They will only end up in the ash heap of history".
Finally, we must remember the massive censorship of the media in China, including the Internet. In this 'Great digital wall', as RFI remembers, the authorities systematically clean up the main websites like Baidu, the equivalent of Google, or Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter. Thus, it is "difficult to find the evocation of the weeks of student demonstrations in the spring of '89, much less the 'cleaning' of the square on the morning of June 4 nor the famous photo of the young Chinese blocking the tanks, taken at next day".
With such control of information, the young generations today do not know much about this violent event, to such an extent that in no city in the country, except for Hong Kong, marches were commemorated. As Fengshou said, "it is a fight, a continuous fight, against the forced amnesia [in China]".
LatinAmerican Post | Juan Gabriel Bocanegra
Translated from "Masacre en Tiananmen: una noche que el gobierno chino quiere borrar de la historia"