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China, Fess Up On Tiananmen

Author: Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies
June 4, 2014
USA Today

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The date of June 4, 1989, is kept alive not only by those who lived through the crackdown in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, but also by the Chinese government's inability to come to terms with the wound it inflicted upon itself.

Twenty-five years ago, in the face of months-long, multi-city popular demonstrations for greater freedoms, China's leaders authorized the use of military force against unarmed protesters, killing hundreds of Chinese citizens in the process.

The failure of successive Chinese leaders to offer a public accounting or expression of regret for what transpired that day leaves them grasping for the legitimacy they desire at home and the leadership they seek abroad.

Every year, as the anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown approaches, Beijing follows the same script. The leadership pre-emptively arrests prominent journalists, artists, scholars and lawyers who might raise the specter of June 4.

And it engages in a game of Whac-A-Mole. As each mention of Tiananmen Square pops up on the Internet, the government bats it down.

This year, for example, Kong Qingdong, a Peking University professor and descendant of Confucius, reportedly posted the following in response to a soldier's defense of the government's actions on June 4: "There was no riot. It was just framing them after you bloodily mowed them down. Can you name one student who was rioting?"

Censors quickly deleted the post.

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