Tiananmen Censorship Prevents Healing
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 3, 2014
Summary: The Beijing authorities must recognize that the June 4th Incident was a national tragedy for China and the Chinese people. Like maggots on a bone, it has affected China's development. It is a heavy burden that the public must be permitted to remember and discuss. Only that will gradually relieve the pressure and put the events behind us. Otherwise Mainland China will never be able to raise its head before the rest of the world. The leaders of this generation champion the "Chinese Dream." To realize that dream, they must first exorcise the phantoms of June 4th.
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Tomorrow is the 25th Anniversary of the June 4th Tiananmen Incident, a deep scar in the collective memory of the Chinese people. A scab has already formed over the wound. But the wound remains inflamed and painful. It also remains a black mark on the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP pretends not to see it. It attempts to force people to forget it. But one cannot erase bloodstained historical memories that way. The best way for those in power to deal with such matters is to join with public, to face them and commemorate them. Only then can this heavy burden be gradually lightened.
Twenty-five years is a long time for an individual or a nation. The celebrated student leaders in Tiananmen Square are now all middle-aged. The exiled academics have gray hair and whiskers. Some even passed away overseas. Deng Xiaoping and Zhao Ziyang, the government heads and student movement supporters have all since passed away.
Great changes have taken place, inside and outside Mainland China. The CCP endured many years of harsh economic sanctions by the Western nations. By continuing to reform and open up, it transformed Mainland China into the world's factory and the world's second largest economy. A string of General Secretaries succeeded each other. Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao have been succeeded by new generation leader Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and Macau have been retroceded. Cross-Strait relations have become more stable and peaceful. The people have changed and so have the circumstances. Today's CCP has greater latitude in dealing with the June 4th Incident. The current leaders' hands are not stained with the blood of June 4th. They have greater latitude in how to heal the wounds.
June 4th is a huge wound. Complete healing is no easy task. But increased public discussion of Tiananmen and commemoration of its victims may allow the government and civil society to do so. Allowing relatives of the June 4th Incident to return home and visit, and accelerating the release of imprisoned dissidents may help internal healing and relieve pain. They may also defuse years of international criticism.
Consider the atmospher during the last month or so. Around June 4th every year, Mainland China is subject to a nationwide panic. Any celebration is prohibited. The phrase "June 4th" is subject to Internet censorship. Liberal scholars, families of the victims, and even dissidents have been subject to varying degrees of surveillance, harassment, or detention. Leave aside the matter of democracy. Such practices are hardly consistent with Mainland China's "Rise of a Great Power" image.
Recently a 7000 member direct marketing group from Guangdong visited the United States. It set a new 70 million USD record in purchases. Was this impressive? Recently Beijing has explored the South and East China Seas. It has deployed vessels, leading to tensions and confrontations with the United States and neighboring countries. Was this impressive? Mainland Chinese economic and military expansion is indeed impressive. But one must demonstrate soft power in one's internal politics instead of lashing out and imposing censorship. If Mainland China can do that, it could create a friendlier atmosphere.
Many nations owe blood debts. America owes black people. Europeans owe colonial subjects. The Japanese owe the Chinese people. Germans owe the Jews. Australians owe the Aborigines. Each nation handles these blood debts differently. Is a nation undergoing a moral awakening? Is it politically mature? Does it have the ability and wisdom to resolve its blood debts? This is a tough job.
Consider the U.S. It paid its blood debt in civil war casualties, a century of struggle, the civil rights movement, and constant reflection by the government and society. This gradually resolved peoples' grievances and ethnic hatred. This process has yet to end. On Taiwan, the 228 Incident and White Terror of the 1950s were also nightmarish experiences for Taiwan society. They require the restoration of historical truth, compensation, and apologies. Only then can society gradually be freed from the historical burden.
The current leaders of Mainland China were still young during the June 4th Incident. They probably understood public sentiment and how the events unfolded. In all fairness, China was experienced only in rule. It lacked experience in politics. The result of this lack of experience in politics, meant that rulers perceived any opposition as enemy action and assumed that the only possible response was repression. They had no conception of tolerating dissent or self-examination. By the same token, the students on Tiananment Square also lacked experience with politics. They had abundant enthusiasm and made unilateral demands. They did not understand the neeed for gradualism and concessions. The result was a disservice to the reformers, and set back the the process of Mainland China's opening.
The Beijing authorities must recognize that the June 4th Incident was a national tragedy for China and the Chinese people. Like maggots on a bone, it has affected China's development. It is a heavy burden that the public must be permitted to remember and discuss. Only that will gradually relieve the pressure and put the events behind us. Otherwise Mainland China will never be able to raise its head before the rest of the world. The leaders of this generation champion the "Chinese Dream." To realize that dream, they must first exorcise the phantoms of June 4th.
2014.06.03 01:57 am