Sunday, 3 June 2012

Tiananmen at 23

I realised something rather surprising during the Chen Guangcheng episode in the news, and that was the absence of Tiananmen from the discussion. An entire chapter of my PhD thesis was dedicated to the importance of the Tiananmen Square Massacre/Incident/Crackdown, illustrating how central it had become in the US-China debate. It was everywhere – extremely few articles didn’t take a chance to mention it. True, with time and distance, the frequency of mentions has reduced, but it certainly remained a factor in any article that had a human rights angle. So, I was surprised when it was absent from all Guangcheng articles I read. I can’t figure out why, either. It deserves some investigation, I think, because it marks a distinct shift in US-China dialogue.

Department of State Deputy Spokesman Mark C. Toner released a statement today, on the twenty-third anniversary of Tiananmen Square:

On this the twenty-third anniversary of the violent suppression by Chinese authorities of the spring 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations, the United States joins the international community in remembering the tragic loss of innocent lives.

We encourage the Chinese government to release all those still serving sentences for their participation in the demonstrations; to provide a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.

We renew our call for China to protect the universal human rights of all its citizens; release those who have been wrongfully detained, prosecuted, incarcerated, forcibly disappeared, or placed under house arrest; and end the ongoing harassment of human rights activists and their families.

It’ll be interesting to see how things develop in the future.

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