Una Rose – Author

Putting the world to write!

Do you understand Tiananmen?


Pillar of peace, June 4 vigil in Victoria Park, June 1997

Pillar of peace, June 4 vigil in Victoria Park, June 1997

Today is June 4th.

Big deal you may say, what is so special about that day? But if I say another word, you will understand: Tiananmen.

This day 26 years ago, China showed it’s true colours by killing its people in full view of the world’s media. June 4 marks the bloody end of the pro-democracy student protests that led to bloodshed in Beijing in 1989. An estimated 1,000 people died. I personally know two women who witnessed those events and lost close friends in those violent weeks.

And yet sadly, those images have sunken deep into the depths of our memories and we merrily trade with this terrorist nation and allow our components and clothes to be manufactured there in sometimes awful conditions for the workers, all for the glory of lower and lower prices. A friend once managed a factory in China and his stories of worker cruelty have me in tears every time. Still is anyone really aware of this or even cares?

Much is said in the press about the PR machine of the ISIS terror regime, and how they use social media to their own advantage. And yet no such criticism is leveled at our cuddly Panda-image trading partners for doing the same in reverse. No social media or commentary is ever allowed of the topic of the student protests in China and it has done a fantastic job too of wiping it from our memory. Any activists in China (and sometimes externally too) will have already been rounded up ahead of today’s date. It is never discussed ever in the media and Chinese people know only too well if they speak out about it this far on, they are still at risk of being detained. Even famous Chinese people like the artist Ai Wei Wei are targeted and attempts made to silence them.

When I was living in Hong Kong in the late 90s, I attended the annual candle vigil to Tiananmen. I took a picture of the Pillar of Peace and if you look closely you can see faces of anguish. This was the last vigil before the Handover of the British colonial state to China. It was less than three weeks to go in fact.  It was a very moving gathering. People were crying, fearful of what was to come once China took over. The incumbent leader Tung Chee Hwa had been reported that day in the local media as saying: “It is time to drop this June 4 baggage!”

The Hong Kong people were naturally very angry at his choice of word, “baggage”. The main English newspaper, The South China Morning Post, even tried to get its journalists (unsuccessfully I might add!) to quit using the word “massacre” and instead use “incident.”

I am so proud of the defiant Hong Kong people, many of whose parents fled the communist regime in the 1960s. For more than a quarter of a century, while China has censored and suppressed all mention of the event, Hong Kong has defiantly commemorated the anniversary.

Of course Hong Kong has recently been at battles with China over the election of the city-state’s new leader. The so-called Umbrella Movement was a show of protest against China’s insistence on vetting the candidates for upcoming election. Hong Kong had been let down by the British government, which until the last five years of rule, had never entertained universal suffrage. Chris Patten tried his best as the last governor to get a great form of democracy but too little, too late and of course China is hardly likely to offer every citizen a democratic vote.

So if you do nothing else today, do take time to Google Tiananmen and remember those that tried to stand up for justice, democracy and freedom.

A final tragic point, Tiananmen actually translates as “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”

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