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
    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

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora