Friday was the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre: June 4, 1989.
Student protesters in China had been peacefully protesting since April for political reforms, some even calling for democracy in Beijing, the center of which was at Tiananmen Square. That was when “peaceful protest” actually meant peaceful protest.
It was a heady and hopeful moment, where you had marches of a million people — with other, Chinese people joining and supporting the students. The world turned its attention to Tiananmen Square, where the students had gathered, knowing that something magical was going on, and hoping, hoping that perhaps that movement that was sweeping away Communism and oppression in other places around the world at that time would touch China and bring freedom.
But the Chinese Communists were watching, too, and they weren’t going to have that.
On June 4, 1989, Chinese soldiers in tanks moved in on the protesters in the famous square, massacring hundreds, perhaps thousands of them. There has never been an official count, because the government immediately tried to memory-hole the incident and pursue any of the remaining students and leaders.
They did this all in front of the eyes of the world.
One photo of one man’s bravery has come to reflect that day, as he stood in front of the tanks and scolded them, shifting and blocking them as they tried to move around him, even climbing on the tank. He became known as “Tank Man.”
You’ve seen the famous Tank Man photo, taken on today’s date in 1989. But have you seen the wide-angle version?
The one that makes it clear he wasn’t just standing up to a couple tanks, but the whole Chinese Communist regime?
Now you have: pic.twitter.com/VI7Iq0EAX8
— Logan Dobson (@LoganDobson) June 4, 2021
Here’s raw video from when CNN was a news organization.
"That guy, you see that guy?"
"There's a guy who's running in front of the tank. He's standing right in front of it."
— mhar4 瞻之在前、忽焉在後 (@mhar4) June 4, 2021
What happened to Tank Man is not clear.
To this day, China refers to what happened on June 4th as an “incident” — not a massacre. This, despite the fact that world media was on the scene a the time and recorded much of what occurred. And this year, the regime is forbidding people from remembering the massacre in Hong Kong as the city has done for years since the massacre.
Anyone attending the Tiananmen Square massacre vigil this year in Hong Kong may face up to 5 years in prison.
Criminalising such a peaceful, solemn expression of dissent is further proof that freedom of speech and assembly is no longer allowed in Hong Kong. pic.twitter.com/vABAnsFASk
— Sophie Mak (@SophieMak1) May 29, 2021
This is what China is now: trying to sell us through one of its media organs, as to why the same number of people aren’t coming out to commemorate the massacre. Even now, China is still lying, even knowing that we know of their order.
#Editorial: Tiananmen Square embodies Chinese people's confidence in China's politics. The Chinese public's understanding of June 4th incident has fundamentally changed.We laugh at those posturing "commemorative" activities orchestrated by outside forces. https://t.co/sQnspmzCZg pic.twitter.com/3ZT4BKzd1H
— Global Times (@globaltimesnews) June 4, 2021
Powerful combo picture has just hit the @AFP wire.
Shows Tiananmen anniversary vigils in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park in 1990, 1999, 2004, 2011, 2015, 2018, 2019, 2020 and… tonight pic.twitter.com/Gf3Fpwtmdt
— Jerome Taylor (@JeromeTaylor) June 4, 2021
But people came out anyway, in defiance of the government crackdown.
— 2cats (@2cats4) June 4, 2021
So, what does this tell us? This tells us that we haven’t learned the lessons we should have learned 32 years ago.
We’re watching Hong Kong, which had been one of the greatest cities in the world for capitalism and freedom, being stolen from the world in real time as it happens. And somehow, we are not doing enough to stop that from happening, as its people stand for their rights, with the same kind of bravery and desire for those rights as Tank Man. We’re seeing the oppression and genocide of the Uighurs in real time, with no one seriously standing up to stop it.
That’s the visible.
What is not as easy to see, but may be just as pernicious, are the efforts to suborn the world from calling China out on its actions and the control it exerts to shut down that criticism. We saw it with Hong Kong, with the NBA and folks like LeBron James tried to shut down Daryl Morey for tweeting support for Hong Kong because of their connections to China.
Now, we see how harmful it is, when it comes to the cover-up of the start and the origins of the pandemic.
We stand at a crossroads, in a bad place, having let this get to where it is now.
Dr. Anthony Fauci tells us that we shouldn’t be “accusatory” with China over the pandemic origins, because that will make China “pull back more.”
After 32 years, at what point does he think it will be appropriate for us to stop pulling back and start being accusatory? Because at this point, we surely haven’t been accusatory enough.