After breaking into Hong Kong’s legislature, protesters left a message for Carrie Lam, the city’s top government official, spray-painted on a pillar: “It was you who taught me that peaceful protests are futile.”
To the young activists, the storming of the Legislative Council was an act of desperation. Three times in the past month, tremendous numbers of Hong Kongers — at one point estimated to be more than two million — marched peacefully to protest against a controversial extradition bill with China, which they fear would undermine Hong Kong’s judiciary and its freedom. The government suspended but did not withdraw the law.… Seguir leyendo »
I was giving a talk about Tiananmen Square’s legacy at an Australian university about two years ago when a young Chinese student put up her hand during the question-and-answer session. “Why do we have to look back to this time in history?” she asked. “Why do you think it will be helpful to current and nowadays China, especially our young generation? Do you think it could be harmful to what the Chinese government calls the harmonious society?”
She wasn’t challenging the facts of what had happened on June 4, 1989. She was questioning the value of the knowledge itself. In the years since I wrote about Beijing’s success in erasing the killings of 1989 from collective memory, I’ve often heard Chinese students defending the government’s behavior as necessary.… Seguir leyendo »
In the spring of 1989, Chinese pro-democracy activists filled Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. For weeks, the protesters, led by students, stood in unprecedented defiance of the Communist regime. They called for respect for human rights and greater political participation amid the ambitious economic reforms spearhead by then-leader Deng Xiaoping. The protests eventually spread to 400 cities across China. Communist Party leaders, however, saw the protests as a threat to their hold on power and the political system. On the morning of June 4, the government sent armed troops to dissolve the demonstration in Tiananmen Square, killing and arresting activists. Though there is no official death toll, estimates range from several hundred to more than 10,000.… Seguir leyendo »
In the decade I spent reporting from China, the most immediate obstacles to journalism were often physical. They took many forms: barricades blocking access to certain places; men in military buzz cuts trailing me; plainclothes thugs stationed in front of the homes of people I planned to interview; and of course, the threat of police detention. In one memorable incident, an official threw himself in front of the car I was riding in with colleagues to delay our departure, precipitating an unseemly shoving match. These physical manifestations of state power were designed to muzzle through intimidation and brute force, occasionally reinforced with threats of visa refusal.… Seguir leyendo »
Overnight, my childhood home became a battleground. The Hong Kong streets where I grew up morphed into an alarming political flash point with riot police in gas masks firing tear-gas canisters at pro-democracy protesters, many of them defending themselves from the noxious white clouds with little more than umbrellas and plastic wrap.
Having lived for years in Beijing researching the legacy of China’s suppression of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, I should not have been shocked. After unleashing the army on their own people a quarter-century ago, China’s leaders were left with a brooding sense of their own vulnerability and a determination to ensure demonstrations would never again spiral out of control.… Seguir leyendo »