Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Tiananmen Square massacres 25 years on

Twenty five years ago today, the protests at Tiananmen square in Beijing were crushed. The protests seemed to suggest a new era, like the May 4th movement in 1919 which was a watershed in Chinese history (leading among other things to the foundation of the Communist party). So it was traumatic when the protests were ended. Everyone remembers what they were doing when the news came through, also what others were saying and doing. François Bisson was there, in Beijing, right in the heart of the action. He made this film using footage he and a cameramen he knew shot at the time. It's very direct, first person, watch it and "be there" again.

Has anything changed? Yes, a great deal. Although the Party and Army still control the government and the media (my site is banned in China), things are infinitely better. The "Capitalist Roaders" the Red Guards used to rail against have won, sort of. Throughout history, change has happened when ordinary people have opportunities to better themselves. So much for Marxist theory. To some extent it's fortunate that strong central economic control persists, because the Chinese banking system didn't collapse when disaster struck everywhere else. At the top, three powerful and idealistic women bankers who don't believe in Gordon Gecko selfishness. But an economy that size, growing at that rate... Nothing is easy or simple in a nation that size.

But may June 4th 1989 NEVER be forgotten! The subject is still taboo. A whole generation has grown up, hardly knowing what happened. All the more reason that we who can should remember this day and what it means. Twenty-five years ago, my brother was enraged when my elderly father did not condemn the young soldiers who killed the students.  Father was right. From the perspective of country boys from remote provinces, joining the army was an escape from extreme hardship. They couldn't comprehend why educated city folks would reject the regime. So the way forward is not hate but reform, which cannot take place without remembrance. Twenty-five years ago, my little son wore a black armband to his English infant school. No-one knew what it meant. The teachers must have thought I'd indoctrinated the kid. But my son has grown up with a social conscience and good values. I'm so proud of him.

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