Leading article: Remembering Tiananmen

Share
Related Topics

It would have been unrealistic to expect that the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protest would be commemorated by China's leaders with public pledges of greater openness and pluralism. Such a prospect, alas, still belongs in the realms of fantasy. But Beijing's continued refusal even to mention the democracy movement or come clean about exactly what happened on the night of 3-4 June 1989 reflects a disappointing sense of defensiveness and self-absorption at the top of the world's most populous and rapidly developing country.

Over the past week, as campaigners for civil rights and free speech around the world prepared to remember those killed or injured in Beijing that night, the Chinese authorities were detaining known dissidents, restricting access to Tiananmen Square, and – a new twist this, 20 years on – shutting down internet websites and search engines. The persecution of those involved in, or believed to have been in sympathy with, the Tiananmen protests goes on.

There remain many questions about the crushing of the protest, not least how many people lost their lives that night, and in what circumstances. The Beijing authorities insist that no more than 250 people died, and that no one was killed actually in the square itself – important, as Chinese regard the square as sacrosanct. For many, these claims are hard to believe. Even if strictly speaking true, however, this does not alter the fact that the Chinese Communist Party applied the might of the country's military against peaceful protests – more than two million people were in Beijing's streets at the movement's height – and, as is now clear, snuffed out the incipient flame of democracy for at least a generation.

Vilified abroad, but not for long, new leaders steered another course, concluding the bargain that so many authoritarian regimes make with their people: higher living standards for the many against the enforced silence of the questioning few. So far, with the occasional ruction – such as last year's protests in Tibet and following the earthquake in Sichuan – that bargain has held. China is richer, more developed and with more global clout than 20 years ago. But as a democracy, it is little further forward.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Tony Abbott: A man most Australian women would like to pat on the back...iron in hand

Caroline Garnar
Australian rapper Iggy Azalea performs in California  

Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting

Yomi Adegoke
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there