China media 'largely quiet' on Tiananmen anniversary

Security has been tightened in Tiananmen Square, repors say Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Security has been tightened in Tiananmen Square, reports say

Chinese media remain largely quiet on the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre, while Hong Kong and Taiwanese papers give prominent coverage to the event.

Hundreds of thousands called for democratic reforms in a peaceful demonstration largely focused on a gathering in Tiananmen Square in the summer of 1989.

Security forces cracked down on the six-week protests on 4 June 1989, killing hundreds in the streets of Beijing. The authorities classify the 1989 protests as counter-revolutionary riots and hold no memorial.

Some Chinese papers discuss the controversial topic of democracy, but without making any direct comment on the Tiananmen Square incident.

A headline in the Global Times' editorial reads: "25 years on, society firmer about its path."

The editorial, which is only available in print and e-paper format, criticises media outlets in the US and Europe for "ramping up" reports on "China's crackdown on illegal activities in the public sphere" leading up to the anniversary.

"China has shielded relevant information in a bid to wield a positive influence on the smooth development of reform and opening-up… Chinese society has never forgotten the incident 25 years ago but not talking about it indicates the attitude of society," it says.

Adding that the "Chinese society still remembers how poor we were 25 years ago", it quotes examples of Ukraine and Thailand to caution against the "preaching and appeals from the West".

Image copyright Global Times

"We will not follow the steps of the West. Even those who are captivated by Western ideology are alert to the possibility of the country sinking into turbulence," it warns.

Echoing similar sentiments, an article in the China Daily praises "socialist democracy with Chinese characteristics".

Making no mention of the incident, Liu Guijun, a researcher with the Communist Party Central Committee's Literature Research office, writes that "China's democracy is people's democracy under the leadership of the party".

"Therefore, if China adheres to the development path it has chosen, it can establish itself as a successful institutional system different from those followed by Western countries," he adds.

'Brutal crackdown'

Meanwhile, both Hong Kong and Taiwanese news outlets quote China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei as saying that the Chinese government had long ago reached "the conclusion about the political turmoil at the end of the 1980s".

However, the foreign ministry's press conference website is not carrying Mr Hong's remarks.

Hong Kong media outlets also report that support for the 1989 student protests has dropped, although a majority of Hong Kong residents still believe that the central government was wrong in suppressing the protests.

According to a survey conducted by Hong Kong University's Public Opinion Programme, only 48% of the respondents agreed that "the Beijing students did the right thing", in contrast with 54% a year ago.

The South China Morning Post expects "tens of thousands of Hong Kongers" to attend the candlelight vigil on Wednesday as people still remember the "tragedy of the brutal crackdown" and "younger people have taken up the candles from the older generation".

In Taiwan, experts tell the Apple Daily that China's suppression of dissenting voices is stronger than in the past.

Media outlets also report that President Ma Yingjeou has urged the mainland to "think hard about the significance of the Tiananmen massacre" and to turn the "historic scar" into energy to "push forward real reforms of the country's political and social systems".

A report in the Central News Agency observes that the atmosphere is tense in Beijing and that there are "more armed police than tourists in Tiananmen Square" on Wednesday.

"The country's system is reminding the people not to create trouble, but the public are awakening too. Keeping silent does not mean they do not know [about the incident]… a big country needs to have the courage to face up to the past before it can become a strong country," it adds.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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