Remembering the Tiananmen massacre

 

Twenty-three years after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, Chinese authorities continue to suppress the memory of it

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China has detained political activists and placed others under increased surveillance in cities around the country to prevent them from marking the anniversary of the massacre in Tiananmen Square on Monday.

Hundreds died when the Communist Party used the army to crush pro-democracy protests in 1989. On Sunday, the US called on China to stop harassing those who took part in the Tiananmen protests and their families.

But the Communist Party still tries to suppress any mention of the killings.

"Long live democracy," shouts Mei Chongbiao, his fist in the air. "Down with dictatorship."

The 73-year-old and a few of his friends staged their tiny protest a week ago, then posted footage of it on the internet.

Start Quote

If no-one talks about it, people will forget about the event”

End Quote Mei Zuheng Son of Mei Chongbiao

Speaking by telephone, Mr Mei told us he had witnessed the Tiananmen massacre when he was a fruit-seller in Beijing 23 years ago. He had kept silent for years to protect his own family, but had now decided to speak out.

He staged his protest in a park in the province of Guizhou, in the far south-west of China.

Nestled in a valley in some beautiful green hills, the park is full of families strolling leisurely, old men seated at tables playing cards, and musicians playing mournful tunes by a lake dotted with lily pads and lotus flowers.

From a pavilion on a hilltop in the park, you can look out over the fast-rising office towers and apartment blocks of Guiyang, a city of more than three million.

Public denunciation

China's Communist Party goes to great lengths to prevent any mention of the Tiananmen massacre - events to commemorate it are suppressed. Mei Chongbiao's was a rare public denunciation of Communist-rule in China.

So we took the three-hour flight from Beijing to Guiyang to meet Mr Mei.

His home is modest flat up a grubby alley lined with vegetable stalls. But when we got there, his 32-year-old son Mei Zuheng, who is disabled having lost a leg in a road accident when he was a child, told us we were too late.

Students protesting in Tiananmen Square, May 1989 Students on Tiananmen Square 23 years ago were dispersed with tanks and bullets

The police had raided the flat just after we spoke to his father on the phone. They had ransacked the apartment, strewing papers everywhere, then taken his parents away, along with their computer and any literature they found about the Tiananmen massacre.

Mei Zuheng said the police had told him his father had not committed any crime, but was against the Communist Party and had to be investigated.

"My father saw what happened in 1989, he saw the killings of innocent people. He was scared. He had two young sons and his wife to look after," he explained.

"But now my brother and I have grown up. He felt as a Chinese, he should tell people what he saw. What he can do is limited, but if no-one talks about it, people will forget about the event. The official media never mentions it.

Start Quote

We think with freedom and democracy, people can lead better lives... Without them we'll just be controlled and cheated by the powerful”

End Quote Xiong Canfeng

"Only political reform cannot solve China's problems. Corruption is pervasive. Officials big and small are corrupt," Mei Zuheng added.

"China is like an apple that's rotten inside. On the surface, you see little. People think the apple is still edible. But it is not," he told us. "Our whole system needs changing or we'll never have human rights."

Xiong Canfeng's husband was detained along with Mei Chongbiao last week.

She showed us the small camera on which she had filmed the protest in the park.

The police had demanded she hand the camera over. But she had hidden it, hoping people outside China would see the images.

They had threatened that if she did not co-operate, her son would never get a job once he left university.

"They mean what they said. They can certainly do it," she told us.

"I support my son's education by selling vegetables. Once they smashed my stall and later promised to pay 20,000 yuan ($3,140, £2,043) as compensation. But now they are saying they won't pay me."

"We want change," she said. "We think with freedom and democracy, people can lead better lives. Without them we'll just be controlled and cheated by the powerful."

Leadership change
Zhang Xianling holds a photo of her late son, Wang Nan, 28 May 2012 Zhang Xianling is not optimistic that the change her son fought for would happen

In 1989, hundreds were gunned down as they called for greater political freedom and an end to corruption in China, issues that are still pressing today.

The last Communist leaders who were in power then are due to retire later this year when China undergoes its once-in-a-decade leadership shuffle. So will the incoming leaders be prepared to do things differently?

Zhang Xianling's son Wang Nan was 19 when he was killed at Tiananmen. She has little faith that China's new generation of leaders will bring any new approach.

"Changing our leaders is unlikely to make any difference," she said ahead of this anniversary. "Our hope things will change is just a beautiful, distant desire."

And in Guiyang, there is no sign that the Communist Party is prepared to rethink things.

Just after they spoke to us, Mei Chongbiao's son and Xiong Canfeng, who had hidden the film, were both detained by police.

Rather than address Tiananmen and the issues that caused it, China's leaders continue to suppress even the memory of the massacre.

 
Damian Grammaticas, China correspondent Article written by Damian Grammaticas Damian Grammaticas China correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 44.

    @Suilerua 40" It must be that there are many millions of people unhappy in China who want so desperately to emigrate to far away places they don't know, don't speak the local language, don't know the local laws or customs. They just want to get out of China where they feel life is hopeless. They pay snakeheads thousands of dollars to smuggle them to Europe or America where they are illegal aliens.They're often taken advantage of or sold into slavery.

    So? What do you assume me after quoting my post of happy living in China? What's it got to do with your imagined illegal aliens? or slaves?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 43.

    @1 Steve You cannot give the Chinese people all the trappings of a Western lifestyle without eventually giving them freedom.

    How gastly revolting! You call what western lifestyle? Why do you think the Chinese want it that you don't even know. Don't bother saying giving them freedom. You? or who? Please think before you post, otherwise only become laugh stock.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 42.

    40" I always had happy life living in China"

    Most people are happy in familiar surroundings where they grew up, where friends and family live. It must be that there are many millions of people unhappy in China who want so desperately to emigrate to far away places they don't know, don't speak the local language, don't know the local laws or customs. They just want to get out of China where they feel life is hopeless. They pay snakeheads thousands of dollars to smuggle them to Europe or America where they are illegal aliens.They're often taken advantage of or sold into slavery.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 41.

    @39 Suilerua The US has a limit to what it will tolerate from China.China should cooperate instead.
    I can only laugh at your insulant nonsence. By writing such a post, proved that in this world, there is genuine idiot with incredible arrogance and ignorance still living in this sad universe, or shall we call it universal USA.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 40.

    What a deja vu! Reading Damian's article, as a normal person who didn't know much about the so-described massacre, would think that is as evil as that in Syria. I was in the demonstration in another city in china, peaceful, the students did hunger strike, but was given food by normal factory workers. Perhaps news was blocked, I've never encountered any one who had relative shot in that massacre either. If it's true, I feel sorry for those being shot. Reading some posts by the idiots, I would just resent such kind article. I always had happy life living in China, living in uk now, life is ?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 39.

    32"How long before they stop bellowing and try to gore each other?"

    That would be a terrible mistake on China's part. Everyone who ever attacked America lived long enough to find out that they had vastly underestimated the power of the enemy they had made of it and provoked.China's power is no match for the US, not even remotely.Lucky for China it is not in America's interest to defeat it.But China should beware of unnecessary provocations like Taiwan, the South China Sea, and other reckless acts.The US has a limit to what it will tolerate from China.China should cooperate instead.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    33"Did not America steal that land from the indigenous Indians, most of whom were systematically wiped out as part of ethnic cleansing?"

    No, not true. As primitive hunter gatherers a small number of people demanded control over vast empty swaths of land.They even fought and killed each other.They wouldn't allow people to build farms or towns or even just pass through vast empty tracts.Even today the USA is so vast the land is almost empty especially west of the Mississippi river except for a thin strip along the west coast.Most Chinese know even less about the US than Europeans do

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 37.

    The term of Massacre used for the Tiananman square eviction is wrong.Please check the definition for Massacre. Using this word already means this person has biased opinion. Why don't you also give the account of Chinese authorities as well, to show why they decided to do the eviction and what happened in their view. The plain fact is that after that event till now, China has been getting better not worse, to some people's dissappointment.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 36.

    myhammers: I bet you wouldn't have protested America's atrocity during World War II, or you'd be speaking Japanese. Without America, what other country are you going to lean on as a crutch for justifying the Communist Party's atrocities? There's only so many countries you can use as an excuse.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 35.

    They have selective memory when it comes to "revolutions". I'd like to see the Party defend the execution, persecution and starvation of the millions to death during the Cultural Revolution. But of course that was a "good" revolution since that's how they got to power in the first place.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 34.

    No one can deny the unreasonable paranoia, fear and superstition the CCP has just by looking at what the censors are doing. They are blocking out the terms, "Victoria Park", "Black Clothes" and even the word "today", since the index of the Shanghai exchange fell 64.89 points. Are they going to block out the word "yesterday" tomorrow? Superpower my aunt fanny.This is the behavior of a child on the verge of a nervous breakdown. 89 is just double happiness plus one.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 33.

    Did not America steal that land from the indigenous Indians, most of whom were systematically wiped out as part of ethnic cleansing? Where were their human rights and freedoms?
    China, like most countries, is not perfect. But for every atrocity they may have committed, America has committed infinitely more. They remain the biggest threat to world peace.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 32.

    Nothing here to make me any less nervous.
    The US and China are bcoming like two bulls in the same Asia/Pacific field.
    How long before they stop bellowing and try to gore each other?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 31.

    30You are wrong.Al Qaeda attacked America on 9-11-01, killed over 3000 people.Taleban gave al Qaeda sanctuary.Al Qaeda and Taleban are legitimate targets of a US attack wherever they are.Anyone who gives al Qaeda or Taleban sanctuary is America's enemy. America wants to work with Pakistan to rid it of terrorists but many in Pakistan regard al Qaeda and Taleban as heroes. No one can stop America from defending itself, no one can protect al Qaeda and get away with it.Those who do when and where America attacks al Qaeda may be killed too.It's unfortunate but that is always a problem with war.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 30.

    More anti-Chinese propaganda. America kill 15 people in illegal drone strikes in Pakistan, yet there is no mention of this in the USA section. There is no opportunity for people to give their views, as is the case here. Yet China does anything, and it's widely reported and we're all encouraged to express our dismay. Double standards?

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 29.

    cxcpro1,

    I see your point about having "freedom" in China. Yes, you can visit the BBC website. Yes, you can exercise your rights as a consumer (to a certain extent). Yes, you have all the luxuries you can enjoy in China as long as you can afford it. But do you call this REAL freedom? About your point on not being able to make your voice heard. Well, if the ruling party don't listen then you'll vote for one that WILL in the next election. That's the power and essence of political freedom. Can you do that in China? Can you get rid of corrupt officials with your vote (if you have one)?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 28.

    Well, i'm not using any bypass at all, just regular broadband 4M from CHINA TELECOM. I spend most of my day play WOW just like i did when was studying in the UK. Life is too smooth for me.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 27.

    Btw, I used to live in the UK, experienced your freedom first hand, YES you are free to criticise the goverment, but the politicians don't seem to take your words seriously unless you are some important people like Mr Murdoch.

    and those who knows too much about the goverments' dirty secrets will be end up like Sean Hoare!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 26.

    It is unreasonable to expect that any government will allow one million people to camp out indefinitely in a public square in its capital city.It was about a month before the confrontation with the military and the indiscriminate shooting of some of the demonstrators.

    It's also unreasonable to expect China to evolve into a democracy from a feudal society in a matter of a few decades. It took Europe centuries.It was massacres in the name of the British tyrant king George III that set off the American revolution.When Chinese are ready they'll do the same, probably violently as others have.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 25.

    If you can read BBC in China and comment then you must be using a bypass of some sort, because there is no way you'd be able to use official channels to read news and comment about the Tiananmen Massacre in a Western news website.

 

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