Tuesday, July 14, 2009

14th July 2009 - Twenty Years Since Tiananmen Square!

I hope everything is ok where you are.

2009 sees the 20th anniversary of events in Tainenmen Square, in China's Beijing, Peking as it was called then. A much publicised event, the start of the whole incident is not known by many, so let's take a closer look, and remind ourselves of the freedoms we take for granted...

15th April saw the death of Hu Yaobang, and it was this which triggered the chain of events. Hu was a pro-reform member of the government, and students wanted to mourn him.
They started to gather and the numbers grew, and it wasn't long before various slogans started appearing, calling for the type of reforms that Hu had championed.

As the student numbers increased in Tiananmen Square, as sense of possible change grew - the Glasnost of Gorbachev's Soviet Union led people to believe something similar was possible in China.
Although no-one was demanding the fall of the communist government, the students started to gather support from general workers, who had seen their jobs lost as part of China's opening up to Western style markekt economy.

The government began to get concerned about the protests when the hunger strikes started, and with a state visit by Gorbachev looming, they did not want to appear as if they had lost control. An earlier declaration of martial law had failed to stabilise the situation, so with hundreds of thousands in the Square, the troops were sent in in early June 1989.

A famous picture shows a man standing in front of a line of tanks, holding a carrier bag and climbing on top of the tanks.
It's assumed he was executed after being taken away, because the government was never able to produce him after international requests.

The government says that no-one was killed in the square, in fact at first they stated that no-one died at all. Eventually they admitted deaths, with a figure of a couple of hundred.
Estimates vary, but a consensus seems to be that thousands died, with the army firing indiscriminately into the crowd.
International media on the ground described the back streets as being full of bodies.

There is nothing in the Square to mark the event, the government says only that a few soldiers died after troublemakers caused a riot. The iron fist of the state government clamped down on those identified as part of the protest, and the events of 20 years ago can still be seen today. China as a powerful international force, with massive growth of capitalist markets, but controlled by a die-hard one party communist state.

In 2008 the Olympic marathons ran through Tiananmen past the ever present portrait of Mao Zedong.
If you think you can run through Tiananmen today with a protest flag, think again. Even the Olympic athletes were warned to show no dissent in any form.

If wherever you read this you can shout in public that you disagree with the governement, be thankful - not everyone has that opportunity.

If you can stand for government office, be thankful - not everyone has that opportunity.

If you can work where you want, doing what you want, with free access to the internet, be thankful - not everyone has that opportunity.

You see where I'm going with this - people in Britain where I live may moan and groan, and it's the same in many countries around the world, but the next time you fancy a moan, think back twenty years to Tiananmen, and make sure you fully appreciate what you have.
Even a message like this could get me into trouble if I were in China.

Ok, that's it for today, I might just go and shout some protest out of the window, although the little old man doing the gardening may wonder what's going on!

'Til Next Time,
Health & Happiness,
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