Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Tiananmen Square - 25 Years On

On this day 25 years ago, an event we in the Western world know as the 'Tiananmen Square massacre' occurred, resulting in the deaths of an unknown number of students, civilians, labourers and soldiers in Beijing. Having researched this event for the past 3 years for my undergraduate dissertation and become indescribably attached to it, today is a massive day for me. The Western media is once again hurling accusations at the Chinese Communist Party for its part in the People's Liberation Army crackdown on the ostensibly peaceful student protests of 1989, but having read enough about it to see a different side to Tiananmen, this blinkered view of events fails to inform us exactly what happened in the early hours of June 4th.

For a start, the 'Tiananmen Square massacre' itself misleads the Western audience - it's argued by 99% of historians on the subject that no deaths occurred in the Square itself, instead in the streets surrounding the Square and the outskirts of Beijing. Eyewitness journalist and student accounts claimed the PLA opened fire within the square, but cannot corroborate each other's descriptions of exactly what happened. In other words, the press want us to believe students were killed in the square, but everyone has conveniently forgotten how, why and when.

We're told by the Western media that the students called for democracy and peace, but funerals are a common tool used by the public in Chinese society to raise completely irrelevant protests under the veil of mourning. The Beijing Spring occurred as a response to the death of Hu Yaobang, a Chinese Communist Party member who outspokenly represented student rights. While Yaobang was alive, the students hated him for supposedly having no political backbone. But the moment he died, he was revered and mourned across the nation. The Chinese sin of selfishness forbade them to raise the issue of student welfare, therefore they used his name to demand improved student rights and claim the Party had in fact murdered him. 

The People's Liberation Army were deployed onto the streets as a response to violent protests, not to suppress the protests with violence. The majority of the Chinese Communist Party did not wish for the protests to end in bloodshed, in fact only Li Peng and his right-hand man Yao Yilin who claimed 'it is necessary to take a clear-cut stand to oppose turmoil'. The Army itself was established as a peaceful organisation to help flooded villages and provide a protective presence at times of need, and as such were never trained to handle civil unrest. The troops sent into Beijing that night either arrived with no body armour, weapons or armoured vehicles. Those that were armed only carried live bullets as the army did not have a supply of rubber bullets to cause no harm to civilians, and there were no faucets on the city streets to create water cannons to hold back the protesters without bloodshed. The army were faced with relentless violent advances and road blocks with no defences but their weapons. 

The Western media bombards us with evocative images of students protesting in their thousands in Tiananmen Square, but the involvement of thousands of Beijing labourers and civilians isn't shown to us so as not to tarnish the image of innocent youth. It's these civilians who became initially enraged by the move to place military presence in the square in order to keep the peace, so these civilians began aggressive measures against the soldiers. An army Jeep accidentally mounted the pavement and hit a pedestrian, and as a response, the civilian protesters torched army vehicles full of troops, hung their burning bodies from bridges, disembowelled them and gouged out their eyes.

So while you're frantically liking posts today of images of Tiananmen we see here in the West showing the innocent students protesting for democracy, remember that this is only one side to the story. The Western world doesn't want to know what happened beyond the countless numbers of student deaths. I'm not condoning the PLA's heavy handed response, but the bigger picture is far more shocking than the Tank Man you'll see sprawled across articles today.

Rest in peace to all the students, civilians, labourers and soldiers who were involved in the events of June 3rd and 4th 1989.

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1 comment:

  1. I'm really glad that you posted this, there has been a lot of press about it lately but I feel like I'm reading the same thing. I'm glad I have finally read an educated piece!

    Danniella x


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