News / Asia

Tiananmen Demands Linger, Despite Chinese Government Silence

Despite Government Efforts to Silence Tiananmen, Demands Lingeri
X
May 29, 2014 1:14 PM
It's been 25 years since China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. China's leadership has taken great steps to silence any discussion of the events of 1989, the massive protest rallies that took place that spring in Beijing and other cities and the bloody crackdown that followed. Even so, the demands of the students and citizens who poured out onto the streets at that time have not gone away. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video report by William Ide
William IdeRebecca Valli
It has been 25 years since China's crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square. China's leadership has taken great steps to silence any discussion of the events of 1989, the massive protest rallies that took place that spring in Beijing and other cities and the bloody crackdown that followed. Even so, the demands of the students and citizens who poured out onto the streets at that time have not gone away.
 
In the spring of 1989, Fang Zheng was an aspiring track and field athlete at a Beijing university. Like many of his classmates, he went to Tiananmen Square to voice his concern about a range of issues from official corruption to freedom of the press.
 
Fang Zheng says that in the 1980s, hopes for reform were high and many joined the Communist Party to try to create a better future for the country.

He says "university students in the 80s all had a similar attitude and were all very idealistic." They also had "strong sense of social responsibility and concern for the fate of the country."
 
Fang Zheng says many at that time were influenced by then leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, and his reform policies. He says that he and other students took their demands to Tiananmen Square in the hope that it would help China change as well.
 
That all changed early on the morning of June 4, when Fang Zheng became a firsthand witness and victim of the government's crackdown. A tank rolled over both of the young athlete's legs and lopped them off.

 
Student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, 1989.Student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, 1989.
x
Student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, 1989.
Student pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, 1989.
Instead of responding to the public's demands, Fang Zheng says, the government "used guns, repression and blood to cement their authority" and respond to the protesters.
 
During the Tiananmen protests in 1989, one of the seven demands of the students was for officials and their family members to disclose their income, another was for the right to freely hold demonstrations in Beijing.
 
Today, a quarter of a century later, those two aspirations remain distant goals.
 
Assets off the table
 
Chinese President Xi Jinping's sweeping anti-corruption campaign has netted both high and low-ranking officials. But, his administration has rejected calls for the Chinese leadership to release information to the public, such as their salaries and the number of apartments and cars they own.

 
FILE - A placard with a photo of Xu Zhiyong is raised by a demonstrator protesting against a Chinese court’s decision to sentence him in prison outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 27, 2014.FILE - A placard with a photo of Xu Zhiyong is raised by a demonstrator protesting against a Chinese court’s decision to sentence him in prison outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 27, 2014.
x
FILE - A placard with a photo of Xu Zhiyong is raised by a demonstrator protesting against a Chinese court’s decision to sentence him in prison outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 27, 2014.
FILE - A placard with a photo of Xu Zhiyong is raised by a demonstrator protesting against a Chinese court’s decision to sentence him in prison outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong, Jan. 27, 2014.
When individuals, such as lawyer Xu Zhiyong, have challenged that position they have ended up in jail. Xu and several other members of a loosely organized group called the New Citizens Movement were jailed earlier this year for trying to rally support for assets disclosure.
 
Senior Hong Kong journalist Ching Cheong says that while China's President Xi Jinping has launched sweeping efforts to reform China's economy and government bureaucracy, he has been silent on political reform and addressing the basic desires of the Chinese public.
 
"And what do the people desire? People want a separation of power, people want to have a check and balance on the exercise of power, and people want to have all the constitutional rights that they are entitled to," he said.
 
Freedom of assembly
 
Protests are not uncommon and are a guaranteed right under China's constitution, as long as they do not infringe on the interests of the state. And because of that, the way the Chinese government responds to public dissent varies widely.

 
FILE - Chinese police monitor a march by tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China on May 22, 1989.FILE - Chinese police monitor a march by tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China on May 22, 1989.
x
FILE - Chinese police monitor a march by tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China on May 22, 1989.
FILE - Chinese police monitor a march by tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters in the special economic zone of Shenzhen in southern China on May 22, 1989.
Recently, thousands rallied in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou to protest the construction of a waste incinerator. Clashes with authorities escalated into violence, cars were overturned and police vehicles torched.
 
State-media say some 60 individuals have been detained, but local authorities have also pledged to not move forward on the project without public support.
 
That approach contrasts with how authorities treat activists such as Xu Zhiyong and other members of the New Citizens Movement, who have held peaceful public gatherings to require officials to disclose their assets. The demonstrators have been sentenced to prison for gathering crowds to create a disturbance.
 
No room for dialogue
 
Andrew Nathan, a political scientist at Columbia University says that although pressure is building in China for the government to engage in dialogue on sensitive issues, the most common response is to focus on stability and the silencing of dissent.
 
Bodies lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 file photo.Bodies lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 file photo.
x
Bodies lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 file photo.
Bodies lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square in this June 4, 1989 file photo.
Nathan says that when students and workers gathered in Beijing in 1989, what they were seeking was dialogue with the government, not to overthrow the party.  
 
" In [19]89, the government, the ruling party, really decided if we dialogue with you lot, I mean there is no knowing what you are going to start demanding from us and then we are not going to be authoritarian rulers anymore. That's not our system. So they refused to do it. They are still in that refusal stage 25 years later," he said.
 
China's official stance on Tiananmen is that it was a counter-revolutionary rebellion.  And while the government faces annual calls to open an inquiry into what happened in the spring of 1989, there is no sign that it will change its approach anytime soon.
 
This report is also based in part on news wires.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: meanbill from: USA
May 29, 2014 11:07 AM
The 1989 Beijing Tiananmen Square protests, almost brought down the whole Chinese communist government -- (because the police were hopelessly unprepared and overwhelmed) --- (and Mao had promised the Chinese people, that the Peoples Liberation Army, would never be used against the Chinese people) --- and when the Chinese communist leadership asked the PLA to come to Beijing to stop the protests, the PLA said they couldn't be used against the people -- but after much begging, (to save the Chinese country), a PLA armored regiment colonel agreed to come to Beijing and save the country -- (and at first the people stopped the PLA tanks) -- but the communist leadership convinced the PLA armored regiment to save the government, and they finally cleared Tiananmen Square from all the protesters. --- IF not for that "hero" PLA regiment colonel, the Chinese communist government would have fallen then, and China would have ended up like Russia, after Gorbachev almost destroyed it....

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs