When forgetting is mandatory, remembering can be a lonely affair. Zhang Xianling’s 19-year-old son was shot in the head when Chinese troops bloody repressed student-led protests that began in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in 1989. In the 31 years since then, she and others Tiananmen Mothers They have campaigned in vain for an honest calculation of the events of June 4, while the amnesia imposed by the Communist Party has made the subject taboo on the continent.
“So there is hope after all!” exclaimed, when the scale and passion of Hong Kong’s annual vigil it was described to him A few years ago. The event, which was attended by up to 180,000 people at its peak, was the largest in the world and kept the memory of the killings on Chinese soil alive. But it won’t happen this Thursday, and it may never happen again. The authorities have banned it for the second year running, reportedly due to coronavirus concerns, though other massive events continue, and the authorities have warned that anyone who tries to participate could face five years in jail. Macau has acted in a similar way.
Last year, thousands of people in Hong Kong defied the ban and rallied anyway. But 24 pro-democracy figures were later accused of participating in an unauthorized assembly or inciting others to do so; Joshua Wong, already incarcerated, was sentenced to an additional 10 months after pleading guilty to involvement. On Sunday, the 65-year-old activist known as “Grandmother Wong” was arrested on charges of unauthorized assembly, for a one-on-one demonstration that day to commemorate the massacre. A museum that commemorates the events. was forced to close three days after opening, pending investigation. Much in the city plan Light a candle in memory of the dead. But without the public space for discussion and collective memory, amnesia spreads.
The elimination of the 1989 murders by the Communist Party has been so complete and effective that many young people on the continent do not know what happened, and others have come to believe that perhaps repression was necessary. Silence grows. The right to remember what happened in 1989 is also the right to know the truth more broadly: “The defense of the Tiananmen memory is the first line of defense,” said a Hong Kong lawyer. said this week.
What should rememberHowever, it is not just the massacre of 31 years ago, but the enormous support for the protests that preceded it. There were marches in more than 300 cities; Officials, including police officers and judges, participated in demonstrations calling for freedom and reform. Many of the hundreds, possibly thousands, who died in Beijing and elsewhere were not students, but ordinary residents trying to protect them. To remember 1989 is to remember that there is an alternative, impossible as it may seem now: that Hong Kong could have kept its freedoms; that octogenarians could be allowed mourn their murdered children without harassment; that Uyghurs could live with dignity in Xinjiang; that human rights could be protected in China and that its people were entrusted with the truth and the freedom to debate them.
Though their numbers inevitably diminish over the years, the Tiananmen Mothers persist in their courageous and lonely campaign. When his followers on the mainland and in Hong Kong are silenced, it is up to the outside world to keep the flame burning, telling them that there is still hope.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism