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Tiananmen Square, June 4, 1989
With Hong Kong’s Tiananmen Square Vigil Canceled, ‘The Fire Is Flickering’ (Wall Street Journal)
HONG KONG—Most years for the past three decades, the Rev. Youngman Chan has gathered with thousands of others in a Hong Kong park on June 4 to commemorate the students who died in 1989 while demanding democracy in China. …
This year, the vigil has been canceled. Police refused permission, citing a coronavirus-control rule limiting social gatherings to eight people, and threatened anyone who defies the ban with arrest. …
The vigil’s attendance has been a barometer of the city’s political mood, typically swelling in years of particularly unpopular decisions from Beijing. Last year’s crowd exceeded 180,000, organizers said, equaling the record.
For a period of some weeks in 1989, more than 200,000 Chinese citizens gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to protest the authoritarian and non-representative rule of the Chinese Communist Party. On June 4th, the Deng Xiaoping government ordered the military to clear the square and prevent the crowd from regathering. This military operation was carried out, as Sen. Tom Cotton is advocating for similar measures in the US, with “no quarter”. We’ll never know how many Chinese citizens were killed that day, but secret British diplomatic cables released in 2017 put the number at more than 10,000.
Since that day, the Chinese government has gone to enormous lengths to whitewash any record of that massacre from public consumption. Even today – more than 30 years after the fact – June 4th is colloquially referred to as “Internet maintenance day” on the mainland, and even a passing social media reference to June 4th and its historical meaning will earn you a knock on the door – or much worse – from the Chinese security services.
For the past 30 years, however, June 4th has been commemorated in Hong Kong with vigils and mass remembrances of that tragic day. Last year, more than 180,000 Hong Kong residents gathered together on June 4th to stand witness against the violent tyranny of the Chinese state and its efforts to erase history.
This year, Hong Kong authorities refused permission for the June 4th vigil, and threatened to arrest any crowd that gathered for this purpose.
Next year, under the “national security laws” that Beijing will soon impose on Hong Kong, not only will the congregation of such a crowd be illegal (and simple arrest will be the least of the consequences for any protesters), but also social media or Internet remembrances of the June 4th massacre in Tiananmen Square will be punishable by fine and arrest.
Hong Kong, 1997
Washington DC, 2020
Can a Tiananmen Square massacre happen in the United States?
I doubt it. Although the possibility becomes both real and non-trivial if Tom Cotton and Donald Trump get their way and use the Insurrection Act to “put down” protests with regular US military troops or with paramilitary squads dragooned from federal prisons and the like.
Whatever your views on the validity or lack thereof for the protests themselves, if you don’t think it matters whether Lafayette Park is cleared by DC Police or cleared by these guys, you’re wrong. In fact, for the preservation of liberty and the Constitution of the United States, it’s really the ONLY thing that matters.
Can a Tiananmen Square rewriting of history happen in the United States?
Absolutely. It already is.
And not just in the appropriation of imagery and symbol, like Trump’s misbegotten St. John’s photo-op the other day. That’s trivial. That’s just silly.
No, the REAL rewriting of history is done by both the Democrats AND the Republicans, by both Fox AND CNN. The real rewriting of history is the creation of channeling narratives that tell you how to think about George Floyd and his murder in ways that fit THEIR interests, not yours!
The broad-daylight mass political protests are growing. Some police departments are doing a good job reacting to this. More will.
The dead-of-night mass criminal lootings are shrinking. A few police departments are doing a good job reacting to this. More will.
Over the next few days, hundreds of thousands of pissed-off Americans will protest a broken system of political representation and individual justice in cities and towns all across the country. And they won’t break a thing except the complacency and narratives of a corrupt two-party system and its crony capitalist supporters.
This isn’t a threat to democracy. This IS democracy.