The Aftermath of Tiananmen Square 1989
What follows is the third part of the essay on Tiananmen Square Massacre. You can read the introduction article here, or by going on to “Project 1989”, “Tiananmen Square 1989” section on this website. Also, part one, “A Century of Cries for Freedom in China”, can be accessed here while the second part, “The Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre of 1989” can be read here.
The immediate aftermath
The immediate aftermath of the massacre was chaos. Document 19 from the National Security Archive reveals that: “By the morning of June 6, it appeared to some in the State Department that the situation in Beijing was teetering on the brink of political chaos or even civil war. This Department of State morning summary describes clashes among different PLA units, with sources claiming that in many cases the soldiers were sympathetic with the demonstrators and often complicit in the destruction of their own military vehicles. “At least some of the troops still entering Beijing,” the document notes, “are arriving without authorization and are intent upon attacking the 27th Army.” The document also appears to be anticipating an intensification of the current leadership crisis…”.
The state described above lasted for a few days with reported clashes between military units, as well as instances of harassment of citizens by PLA personnel. It was not until June 9 that Deng Xiaoping made his first public appearance since May 16, “expressing support for the military measures imposed on the demonstrations”. Moreover, it became clear that the CCP had no intention to free the captured dissidents, including Fang Lizhi and his wife, Li Shuxian, both charged with “crimes of counter-propaganda and instigation before and during the recent turmoil”.
On 22 June, the US Embassy in Beijing received new details about the reality of the. One witness who participated at the demonstrations described how “a PLA tank crushing 11 students under its wheels on the morning of June 4. Comments at the end of the document indicate that the source’s version dovetails with the comments of other sources.”.
The relationships between China and the Western world, especially the USA, broke down. However, in an attempt to both revive diplomatic relations as well as to gather as much information about what really happened between 3 – 4 June in Tiananmen Square, on 30 June “National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence S. Eagleburger embarked on a secret mission to Beijing”. The reality of the situation in China in the aftermath of the massacre was bleak. It included: a state of martial law, arrests and executions, a leadership crisis within the CCP, a faltering economy and a depressing mood of the Beijing population.
Let’s bring some colour to the above summary by looking at some of the statements given by those who have suffered for years in the communist prisons for nothing more but their love for their country and for their desire to have a freer society. Let us see what these “Judases”, or, as the communists called them, “hooligans”, have to say about their lives in the months and years that followed the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations. What follows comes from “Bullet and Opium”.
Li Hongqi who was labelled as a “hooligan” by the CCP recalled what happened: “I was arrested on June 13. […] Before I even had a chance to scream twice, they stuffed two toothpaste tubes into my swelling cheeks, then a plastic medicine bottle, then they sealed my bulging face with tape. Blood and saliva dripped out. They took all of my clothes. No, they tore them all off. […] I kept begging for mercy, but no sound came out. Exhausted from torturing me, they ordered me to kneel. As they kicked my private parts, they said, “Let’s see you burn a military vehicle!” […] I had no mouth and no voice to defend myself with. […] Then they used iron clubs and rifle butts on me. After being hit a few times, I blacked out. They woke me up with a bucket of cold water and my nightmare continued.”.
Wu Wenjian who, upon seeing the many dead and wounded in a Beijing hospital, wrote on a T-shirt “Give me democracy. Give me freedom” explained: “In a world where history is mostly created by the elite, people like us have no place in this historical event. I met a disabled person who got ten years in jail for slamming his crutches on a tank repeatedly, before staggering away elated.” On 7 September, Wu was transferred in the Beijing Municipal Detention Centre, an old prison built by the Soviets in the 1950s where the “three people who had thrown eggs and defaced the Chairman Mao portrait” in Tiananmen Square “were also imprisoned there. One of the guys, Yu Zhijian, used to share a cell with me.”.
Yu Zhijian also recalled his time in the infamous Turtle Mansion detention centre: “[…] the soldiers […] were mostly brainwashed brutes. They were beasts with sharp teeth and claws who knew no laws. They brutalised the detainees. Students and ordinary people alike were nearly beaten to death. When we were arrested and transferred to the detention centre, a soldier lifted me up as if he were lifting a live chicken and threw me towards the jeep about three feet away. That wasn’t enough to vent his anger. He raised his automatic rifle and smashed its butt against my face. Immediately, fresh blood spewed from my mouth.”.
This was the reality for thousands of Chinese citizens captured and brutalised under the orders of the CCP, many of whom died or lost their minds in inhumane conditions. Some who got out were scared for life, either psychologically or physically, or both.
Long-term lessons for Xi Jinping
“The great massacre of June 4, 1989, was a turning point. Before, everyone loved their country; afterward, everyone loved money”, wrote Liao Yiwu. This indeed describes the long-term effect of the protests: their impact has been diluted through relentless propaganda and the half-lie of China’s “economic miracle”.
The propaganda to make people forget about what happened in Tiananmen Square in 1989 has been ramped up by Xi Jinping.
The Hill reports that “[…] after the bloodshed, Xi Jinping’s wife Peng Liyuan, a PLA pop singer, hosted concerts in which she sang for soldiers to celebrate their victory crushing the “counter-revolutionary riot.” However, Xi’s father, Xi Zhongxun, a CCP veteran leader, stood firm against Deng’s order to kill student protesters. The senior Xi openly criticized Deng Xiaoping for using force to slaughter the students. As a consequence, he was punished by being ejected from the CCP leadership and exiled to the south for nearly 10 years. Xi’s divided family history reflects today’s China. Those who survived the massacre were silenced, imprisoned or exiled. The CCP hardliners and their supporters dominated China’s politics.”.
Despite his father’s opposition to the bloodshed, Xi Jinping’s faith in the Party grew stronger. In an article entitled “Xi Jinping’s Tiananmen Family Lessons” Joseph Torigian from Foreign Policy explains that the current Chinese leader learnt from how the regime treated his father that the Communist Party comes first: “Xi Jinping has been remarkably quiet about June 4. Since coming to power, he has not spoken openly about the event. However, in the few times that Xi has spoken of June 4 directly or indirectly, as well as through his actions, we can see what lessons he learned and what that might tell us about his behavior in the future.”.
Xi saw the student protests as chaos that undermined the Party’s power and control. He did not care for one second about the sentiments and reasons that fuelled demonstrations: more individual freedom, less political corruption, a better economy and so on.
Xi’s attitude is even more surprising, at least at first, when we learn that his family suffered greatly under Mao’s rule. How does one explain Xi’s current behaviour? How can we explain that Xi agreed with Deng on the importance of education and propaganda for younger generations, focusing on indoctrinating the Chinese youth with communist ideals while erasing the “wrong” parts of the country’s history, which is all the past that does not glorify the Party, including the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
As Cui Jian, the rock star whose song “Nothing to My Name” inspired the student protesters in 1989, put it, “As long as Mao’s picture hangs in Tiananmen Square, we are all the same generation.”
To this, Xi Jinping replied: “The storm during the past two months was an anti-party and anti-socialist political upheaval and a counterrevolutionary rebellion created by an extremely small number of people taking advantage of the unrest.”.
Another article from MSN entitled “Xi Jinping whitewashes China’s record of human rights abuses in speech at site of Tiananmen Square massacre” reads:
“In an incendiary speech marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of China’s Communist Party, Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday portrayed China as an innocent player on the global stage while issuing a grave warning against bullying his country. […]
Xi, an authoritarian with a long record of human rights abuses, said this without a hint of irony while speaking from Tiananmen Square – where Chinese troops in 1989 killed hundreds, possibly thousands, after opening fire on unarmed pro-democracy and pro-reform demonstrators.”.
On top of this propaganda, the rest of the world gets a near constant messaging on the “economic miracle” that happened in China. We will get into more detail on this aspect in the final part. For now, we need to highlight the true foundation of this “economic miracle”, and it is not debt (that came later, after China joined the WTO in December 2001).
From Liao’s book:
“China’s economy grew at a frantic pace. Every wave of killings seemed to bring forth tremendous economic growth. One fashionable theory held that economic development would bring political reform and that in turn would force the tyrants to move towards democracy. That was why Western economic sanctions against China after June Fourth soon faded away, with more and more countries lining up to make business deals with the butchers. They did this even as the killers kept jailing and murdering, even as new blood spilled over the old bloodstains. New tyrannies replaced the old. To survive and make a miserable living amid such bloodstained tyranny, people learned to live without moral scruples. […]
In the name of free trade, any Western companies conspired with the butchers. They created a junkyard. Their profits-first “garbage system of values” became ever more influential. The Chinese people all knew that the butchers had the money and had their escape routes ready – that they would, in the end, abandon their scarred and battered motherland. They would emigrate to the West to enjoy that pure land and its sunlight, its liberty, equality, fraternity. They might even join a church there and ask that same Jesus, who was nailed to a cross in ancient times by tyrants, to atone for their crimes. And once the Chinese people realise that the corrupt officials and business people, the shameless exemplars of “winner takes all”, are not going to face justice and get their just deserts in the West, the will imitate them. Soon every corner of the world will be full of Chinese swindlers who have abandoned their homeland – a swarm of locusts who will blot out the earth and the sky, brining disaster with them wherever they go.”.
The “economic miracle” has been built on blood, broken bones, shattered dreams, devasted souls, slaughters, false monetary expansion, greed, political corruption and, above all, a total lack of concern for human beings – a handshake between the tyrannical CCP and the abominable Western corporations and governments who have been eager to tap the “Asian riches” of China.
Every single coin of profit generated in league with the CCP is tainted by the Party’s crimes against humanity. All governments and companies in the West, from asset managers to manufacturers, who have launched funds and outsourced capabilities in China while the CCP has maltreated its people and, as we shall see, kept a vast proportion of its population in poverty while few have become ultra-wealthy, are marked by the blood and pain of those who have died on June Fourth in Tiananmen Square and by the broken lives of those who have imprisoned and mutilated in the aftermath of the demonstrations.
Here we end the third part of the essay on Tiananmen Square Massacre. You can read the introduction article here, or by going on to “Project 1989”, “Tiananmen Square 1989” section on this website. Also, part one, “A Century of Cries for Freedom in China”, can be accessed here while the second part, “The Tiananmen Square Protests and Massacre of 1989” can be read here.
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