MoA - June 04, 2019 - Tiananmen Square - Do The Media Say What Really Happened ?
Le bloggeur Moon of Alabama (#MoA) et un commentateur de son article nous rappellent qu’il y a des informations fiables qui démentent le récit préféré en occident à propos des événements du square Tiananmen il y a trente ans.
Since 1989 the western media write anniversary pieces on the June 4 removal of protesters from the Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The view seems always quite one sided and stereotyped with a brutal military that suppresses peaceful protests.
That is not the full picture. Thanks to Wikileaks we have a few situation reports from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing at that time. They describe a different scene than the one western media paint to this day.
Ten thousands of people, mostly students, occupied the square for six weeks. They protested over the political and personal consequences of Mao’s chaotic Cultural Revolution which had upset the whole country. The liberalization and changeover to a more capitalist model under Deng Xiopings had yet to show its success and was fought by the hardliners in the Communist Party.
The more liberal side of the government negotiated with the protesters but no agreement was found. The hardliners in the party pressed for the protest removal. When the government finally tried to move the protesters out of the very prominent square they resisted.
On June 3 the government moved troops towards the city center of Beijing. But the military convoys were held up. Some came under attack. The U.S. embassy reported that soldiers were taken as hostages:
TENSION MOUNTED THROUGHOUT THE AFTERNOON AS BEIJING RESIDENTS VENTED THEIR ANGER BY HARASSING MILITARY AND POLICE PERSONNEL AND ATTACKING THEIR VEHICLES. STUDENTS DISPLAYED CAPTURED WEAPONS, MILITARY EQUIPMENT AND VEHICLES, INCLUDING IN FRONT OF THE ZHONGNANHAI LEADERSHIP COMPOUND. AN EFFORT TO FREE STILL CAPTIVE MILITARY PERSONNEL OR TO CLEAR THE SOUTHERN ENTRANCE TO ZHONGNANHAI MAY HAVE BEEN THE CAUSE OF A LIMITED TEAR GAS ATTACK IN THAT AREA AROUND 1500 HOURS LOCAL.
There are some gruesome pictures of the government side casualties of these events.
Another cable from June 3 notes:
THE TROOPS HAVE OBVIOUSLY NOT YET BEEN GIVEN ORDERS PERMITTING THEM TO USE FORCE. THEIR LARGE NUMBERS, THE FACT THAT THEY ARE HELMETED, AND THE AUTOMATIC WEAPONS THEY ARE CARRYING SUGGEST THAT THE FORCE OPTION IS REAL.
In the early morning of June 4 the military finally reached the city center and tried to push the crowd out of Tiananmen Square:
STUDENTS SET DEBRIS THROWN ATOP AT LEAST ONE ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER AND LIT THE DEBRIS, ACCORDING TO EMBOFF NEAR THE SCENE. ABC REPORTED THAT ONE OTHER ARMORED PERSONNEL CARRIER IS AFLAME. AT LEAST ONE BUS WAS ALSO BURNING, ACCORDING TO ABC NEWS REPORTERS ON THE SQUARE AT 0120. THE EYEWITNESSES REPORTED THAT TROOPS AND RIOT POLICE WERE ON THE SOUTHERN END OF THE SQUARE AND TROOPS WERE MOVING TO THE SQUARE FROM THE WESTERN SIDE OF THE CITY.
The soldiers responded as all soldiers do when they see that their comrades get barbecued:
THERE HAS REPORTEDLY BEEN INDISCRIMINATE GUNFIRE BY THE TROOPS ON THE SQUARE. WE CAN HEAR GUNFIRE FROM THE EMBASSY AND JIANGUOMENWAI DIPLOMATIC COMPOUND. EYEWITNESSES REPORT TEAR GAS ON THE SQUARE, FLARES BEING FIRED ABOVE IT, AND TRACERS BEING FIRED OVER IT.
Most of the violence was not in the square, which was already quite empty at that time, but in the streets around it. The soldiers tried to push the crowd away without using their weapons:
THE SITUATION IN THE CENTER OF THE CITY IS VERY CONFUSED. POLOFFS AT THE BEIJING HOTEL REPORTED THAT TROOPS ARE PUSHING A LARGE CROWD OF DEMONSTRATORS EAST ON CHANGANJIE. ALTHOUGH THESE TROOPS APPEAR NOT TO BE FIRING ON THE CROWD, POLOFFS REPORT FIRING BEHIND THE TROOPS COMING FROM THE SQUARE.
With the Square finally cleared the student protest movement ebbed away.
Western secret services smuggled some 800 of the leaders of their failed ’color revolution’ out of the country, reported the Financial Times in 2014:
Many went first to France, but most travelled on to the US for scholarships at Ivy League universities.
The extraction missions, aided by MI6, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service, and the CIA, according to many accounts, had scrambler devices, infrared signallers, night-vision goggles and weapons.
It is unclear how many people died during the incident. The numbers vary between dozens to several hundred. It also not known how many of them were soldiers, and how many were violent protesters or innocent bystanders.
The New York Times uses the 30th anniversary of the June 4 incidents to again promote a scene that is interpreted as successful civil resistance.
He has become a global symbol of freedom and defiance, immortalized in photos, television shows, posters and T-shirts.
But three decades after the Chinese Army crushed demonstrations centered on Tiananmen Square, “Tank Man” — the person who boldly confronted a convoy of tanks barreling down a Beijing avenue — is as much a mystery as ever.
But was the man really some hero? It is not known what the the man really wanted or if he was even part of the protests:
According to the man who took the photo, AP photographer Jeff Widener, the photo dates from June 5 the day after the Tiananmen Square incident. The tanks were headed away from, and not towards, the Square. They were blocked not by a student but by a man with a shopping bag crossing the street who had chosen to play chicken with the departing tanks. The lead tank had gone out its way to avoid causing him injury.
The longer video of the tank hold up (turn off the ghastly music) shows that the man talked with the tank commander who makes no attempt to force him away. The scene ends after two minutes when some civilian passersby finally tell the man to move along. The NYT also writes:
But more recently, the government has worked to eliminate the memory of Tank Man, censoring images of him online and punishing those who have evoked him.
As a result of the government’s campaign, many people in China, especially younger Chinese, do not recognize his image.
To which Carl Zha, who currently travels in China and speaks the language, responds:
Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:23 utc - 4 Jun 2019
For the record, Everyone in China know about what happened on June 4th, 1989. Chinese gov remind them every year by cranking up censorship to 11 around anniversary. Idk Western reporters who claim people in China don’t know are just esp stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading
In fact that applies to China reporting in general. I just don’t know whether Western China reporters are that stupid/clueless or deliberately misleading. I used to think people can’t be that stupid but I am constantly surprised...
Carl Zha @CarlZha - 15:42 utc - 4 Jun 2019
This Image was shared in one of the Wechat group I was in today. Yes, everyone understood the reference
Carl recommends the two part movie The Gate To Heavenly Peace (vid) as the best documentary of the Tiananmen Square protests. It explores the political and social background of the incident and includes many original voices and scenes.
Posted by b on June 4, 2019 at 03:00
Here’s Minqi Li — a student of the “right” (liberal) at the time ["How did I arrive at my current intellectual position? I belong to the “1989 generation.” But unlike the rest of the 1989 generation, I made the unusual intellectual and political trajectory from the Right to the Left, and from being a neoliberal “democrat” to a revolutionary Marxist"] — about 1989.
It is in the preface of his book “The Rise of China”, which I don’t recommend as a theoretical book. It doesn’t affect his testimony though:
The 1980s was a decade of political and intellectual excitement in China. Despite some half-hearted official restrictions, large sections of the Chinese intelligentsia were politically active and were able to push for successive waves of the so-called “emancipation of ideas” (jiefang sixiang). The intellectual critique of the already existing Chinese socialism at first took place largely within a Marxist discourse. Dissident intellectuals called for more democracy without questioning the legitimacy of the Chinese Revolution or the economic institutions of socialism.
After 1985, however, economic reform moved increasingly in the direction of the free market. Corruption increased and many among the bureaucratic elites became the earliest big capitalists. Meanwhile, among the intellectuals, there was a sharp turn to the right. The earlier, Maoist phase of Chinese socialism was increasingly seen as a period of political oppression and economic failure. Chinese socialism was supposed to have “failed,” as it lost the economic growth race to places such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Many regarded Mao Zedong himself as an ignorant, backward Chinese peasant who turned into a cruel, power-hungry despot who had been responsible for the killing of tens of millions. (This perception of Mao is by no means a new one, we knew it back in the 1980s.) The politically active intellectuals no longer borrowed discourse from Marxism. Instead, western classical liberalism and neoliberal economics, as represented by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, had become the new, fashionable ideology.
As the student demonstrations grew, workers in Beijing began to pour onto the streets in support of the students, who were, of course, delighted. However, being an economics student, I could not help experiencing a deep sense of irony. On the one hand, these workers were the people that we considered to be passive, obedient, ignorant, lazy, and stupid. Yet now they were coming out to support us. On the other hand, just weeks before, we were enthusiastically advocating “reform” programs that would shut down all state factories and leave the workers unemployed. I asked myself: do these workers really know who they are supporting?
Unfortunately, the workers did not really know. In the 1980s, in terms of material living standards, the Chinese working class remained relatively well-off. There were nevertheless growing resentments on the part of the workers as the program of economic reform took a capitalist turn. Managers were given increasing power to impose capitalist-style labor disciplines (such as Taylorist “scientific management”) on the workers. The reintroduction of “material incentives” had paved the way for growing income inequality and managerial corruption.
By mid-May 1989, the student movement became rapidly radicalized, and liberal intellectuals and student leaders lost control of events. During the “hunger strike” at Tiananmen Square, millions of workers came out to support the students. This developed into a near-revolutionary situation and a political showdown between the government and the student movement was all but inevitable. The liberal intellectuals and student leaders were confronted with a strategic decision. They could organize a general retreat, calling off the demonstrations, though this strategy would certainly be demoralizing. The student leaders would probably be expelled from the universities and some liberal intellectuals might lose their jobs. But more negative, bloody consequences would be avoided.
Alternatively, the liberal intellectuals and the student leaders could strike for victory. They could build upon the existing political momentum, mobilize popular support, and take steps to seize political power. If they adopted this tactic, it was difficult to say if they would succeed but there was certainly a good chance. The Communist Party’s leadership was divided. Many army commanders’ and provincial governments’ loyalty to the central government was in question. The student movement had the support of the great majority of urban residents throughout the country. To pursue this option, however, the liberal intellectuals and students had to be willing and able to mobilize the full support of the urban working class. This was a route that the Chinese liberal intellectuals simply would not consider.
So what they did was … nothing. The government did not wait long to act. While the students themselves peacefully left Tiananmen Square, thousands of workers died in Beijing’s streets defending them.
Posted by: vk | Jun 4, 2019 3:21:31 PM