Cold War Returns

Remembering Tiananmen 1989

M K Adithya

Tiananmen Square incidents (student revolt) of 1989 June was a turning point and for the CPC, now 100. It is a matter of historic importance and related not only to human rights but current global politics. It is recalled every year by the western media, and this year too... but now it has current political overtones of global significance, in the light of renewed Cold War against China.

The NewYork Times (NYT) published news stories, again this July, reflecting the imperialist mindset, that reminded of “the deadly crackdown in 1989”; about China allegedly leading “An Alliance of Autocracies”. It mentioned President Biden’s call for “a battle between the democracies in the 21st century and autocracies”; “demo-cracy was in competition with the autocratic model”. Other western media also indulged in such stories.

Liu Xiaobo (28 December 1955–13 July 2017) is also remembered on his fourth death anniversary. A key leader of Tiananmen, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (2010) for "his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China." Liu took a doctorate in 1988, after which he was a guest lecturer at universities in Europe and the USA. Liu was a leader of Tiananmen. He was convicted, in January 1991, 19 months after his arrest, imprisoned for two years. He was exempted from criminal punishment, in that case, for preventing what could have been a bloody confrontation in Tiananmen Square.” That is as per Court documents. “He and his colleagues successfully negotiated with the student leaders and the army commander” and thus facilitated peaceful dispersal.

More than one lakh students had encircled Zhongnanhai, the head-quarters of CPC as also China’s State, where the offices as well as residences of China’s top 300 plus leaders were situated. No other state in history must have allowed itself to be encircled for 6 weeks by such a big crowd. In India, and elsewhere, crowds are kept kms away. Martial law was signed on May 20, but not a bullet was fired until June 3 night, even as per western reports. Yet, it is projected as a massacre!

Jay Mathews of The Washington Post, then Beijing bureau chief, wrote for a Journalism Journal:

“It is hard to find a journalist who has not contributed to the misimpression…as far as can be determined from the available evidence, no one died that night in Tiananmen Square… all verified eyewitness accounts say that the students who remained in the square when troops arrived were allowed to leave peacefully..” Hundreds of people, most of them workers and passersby, did die that night, under other circumstances...” (where crowds violently clashed with police.)

So many western reports endorsed the above, but after years of lying. Richard Roth of CBS said in 2009, that he was “driven through the square... We saw no bodies, injured people, ambulances or medical personnel—in short, nothing to even suggest, let alone prove, that a ‘massacre’ had recently occurred in that place…” An article in The Guardian: “Why have I never seen film or video footage of a single death? The cameras were there, were they not?”

About the most iconic photo, by AP, of the Tankman at Tiananmen: The original caption reads:

By June 4 morning the area had been cleared of protesters..By June 5 the military had secured complete control,” but found a “lone protester”, the Tank man. Those who knew the situation later commented that the tanks were moving away from the square on June 5.

Contemporary reports showed: "65 PLA trucks and 47 Armed Personnel Carriers were totally destroyed, and 485 other military vehicles were damaged..." The crowds “attacked soldiers with sticks, rocks, and molotov cocktails, setting fire to military vehicles and beating the soldiers inside them to death. On one avenue in western Beijing, anti-government protestors torched a military convoy of more than 100 trucks and armored vehicles.”

The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 1989 reported: “As columns of tanks and tens of thousands of soldiers approached Tiananmen, many troops were set on by angry mobs who screamed, "Fascists". Dozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten, and left for dead. At an intersection west of the square, the body of a young soldier, who had been beaten to death, was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus. Another soldier's corpse was strung up at an intersection east of the square.”

Despite all such reports, patently fake news about a massacre of thousands of unarmed and peaceful crowds entered even Encyclopedias like the Britannica (updated: Apr 20, 2021), and Encyclopedia of the World.

Two Line Struggle Inside CPC
The student movement began sometime in later half of April 1989. It had reflected the differences in top leadership of CCP: Hu Yaobang, former General Secretary (GS) of CCP, died of heart attack on April 15, in the course of a Polit Buro (PB) meeting of which he was a member. It was rumoured that he was insulted by Premier Li Peng, for his views of “Bourgeois Liberalisation” against which a formal campaign, led by Deng, was launched in 1987-88.

“Within hours of a meeting of the Polit Buro, many decisions reached the campuses and crowds”, said an article in Beijing Review (1989 June 26-July 2, 1989). The differences in CC were leaked and used to foment trouble : “The plotters and organisers of the counter-revolutionary rebellion are mainly... (those) who have for a long time obstinately advocated Bourgeois Liberalisation, opposed party leadership and socialism… who have collaborated with hostile overseas forces... and illegal organisations.. They took advantage of students’ feelings and certain shortcomings in Govt work...” But western media was trusted more by some due to anti-Deng prejudices.

Deng in a key speech of 1979 March 30 explained Four Cardinal Principles (FCP) that must be upheld in all reforms and policies: ‘We must keep to the socialist road; We must uphold the dictatorship of the proletariat, the leadership of the Party, and MLM. He said some elements created incidents that opposed them, slandered Mao and the party opposing these principles. Beijing Review (1987, Feb 9) reproduced the speech. He spoke of “Socialism with Chinese characteris-tics”. welcomed S&T from the West, but “we will never learn from or import the capitalist system itself.” “Neither Marx and Lenin, nor Mao could be immune from misjudg-ments;” we must “oppose erroneous trends” and uphold “scientific system” of MLM.

Deng said: We must educate all about FCP. “A trend towards Bourgeois Liberalisation has appeared for the last few years”, he said on Jan 20, 1987, “our party’s leadership was ineffective in checking it... there was a major mistake” on the part of the General Secretary Hu Yaobang. The January 16 enlarged meeting of the Polit Buro decided Hu’s resignation, and elected Zhao Ziyang. Hu continued in the PB. The 1989 Jan 23-24 CC plenary meet held Zhao responsible for the same mistakes. He “took a passive approach” towards FCP, had “unshirkable responsibilities for the shaping up of the (Tiananmen) turmoils” and “splitting the party”, and hence was “dismissed” from the post of GS and all key posts, said the CC Communique of Jan 24. Both Hu and Zhao were supposed to be protégés of Deng, but were discharged by the CPC that was serious about the FCP.

China had alleged foreign, Western influence, behind Tiananmen. And blamed foreign, pro-US intellectuals and hooligans joining hands, in calling for a revolt, which the People’s Daily editorial of April 26 called a “turmoil”.

Three years before Tiananmen, in mid-1986 top scientist Fang Lizhi returned from Princeton University and toured universities in China, speaking about liberty, human rights etc. In response, Deng warned that Fang was blindly worshipping Western lifestyles, capitalism, and multi-party systems while undermining China's socialist ideology, traditional values, and the party's leadership. In December 1986, inspired by Fang etc, student protests began and spread to Shanghai, Beijing etc. Hu Yaobang had to resign as General Secretary in Jan 1987, for being lax on FCPs and Bourgeois Liberali-sation. Fang was then expelled from CPC, but got the Human Rights Award by US in 1989. Deng had called for and led a campaign against Bourgeois Liberalisation, and said Tiananmen was bound to happen: In 1989 June, Zhao Ziyang was expelled from all key posts.

Financial Times’s (3 June, 2009) article titled ‘West miscasts Tiananmen protesters’ questioned, “whether the 1989 students really understood democracy”… Out of 21 student leaders who faced serious charges, many like Chai Ling and Wuer Kaixi escaped to US, UK, France etc, under Operation Yellowbird, organised by CIA, MI6 etc. According to The Washington Post, the operation involved more than 40 people and the "Alliance in Support of Democratic Movements in China" formed in May 1989, implying Tiananmen was pre-planned. After the crackdown, they listed 40 dissidents to form the nucleus of a "Chinese democracy.

Liu typified such leaders of Tiananmen, worth knowing about.

In a 1988 interview with Hong Kong's Liberation Monthly (now known as Open Magazine), Liu said "modernisation means wholesale westernisation..” He ardently supported Regime Change policies of US.

Such were the times that Soviet Union collapsed in 1990-91, but the rot had started much earlier. Gorbachev represented the process, and China was observing it; there was no room for complacency. He was in Beijing at the time of Tiananmen. China had considered whether to vacate the Square, even forcibly, to host Gorbachev. But it was decided by CPC not to do so. It gave a long rope for peaceful settlement. Top leaders including the Premier Li Peng himself, sat on the ground in the Square and talked. Students got space in media, live on TV too. Liu was in such delegations.

Liu himself changed at a later stage: he realised his own shallowness: In an article in The New York Review of Books, Simon Leys wrote: His own dream of westernisation later appeared to him ‘as pathetic as the attitude of a paraplegic laughing at a quadriplegic'. “I have been obsequious toward Western civilisation, exaggerating its merits, and my own merits... Moreover I have used this delusional idealism to assign myself the role of saviour ... I now realise ... (The New York Review of Books. 9 February 2012). It was too late for him, one may add.

“Do supporters of Nobel winner Liu Xiaobo really know what he stands for”? He was no "China's Mandela", as painted by some, because he favoured colonisation of China. The Guardian wrote: “In China, before the award, most people neither knew nor cared about Liu.. he is a champion of war, not peace”. In Hong Kong, more than 500 articles were published about Liu, of which only 10 exposed his views.

The charges against Liu etc are comparable to sedition laws in India, under which there are thousands booked, and hundreds imprisoned, many without trial for years. “…the US Center for Public Integrity found that the Bush Administration told 935 lies about Iraq between 9/11 (September 2001) and the invasion of Iraq (March 2003)”.

Liu Xiaobo died of liver cancer, aged 62 died on 13 July 2017 in Shenyang's China Medical University. He was granted medical parole, on 26 June 2017, after being diagnosed in late May 2017.

Most students were peaceful, but it was not a non-violent crowd. Violent hooligans, many with Taiwan, Hong Kong and foreign links had infiltrated: "65 PLA trucks and 47 Armed Personnel carriers (APCs) ... were totally destroyed, and 485 other military vehicles were damaged." (...molotov cocktails were used. They torched a military convoy of more than 100 trucks and armoured vehicles. The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 1989 reported: Dozens of soldiers were pulled from trucks, severely beaten, and left for was stripped naked and hung from the side of a bus. Another soldier's corpse was strung up at an intersection east of the square.

Everybody knows how US handled Occupy and Black Lives it bombed and killed millions, How is the law operating in India? People here know it better : TADA, ESMA, UAPA, Sedition Law, AFSPA, custodial deaths in thousands, : the Elgar Parishad case, Dr Varavara Rao, and Stan Swamy (now deceased), Dr Saibaba 90% plus handicapped. Many did not get parole or bail though down with Covid-19 etc.

At the end of 2019, as per official Indian data, there are 3.28 lakh under-trial (un-convicted) prisoners. The US has 5.55 lakh pre-trial prisoners (The Leaflet, 2020 July 2). How Snowden, Assange were handled speaks volumes about US democracy. Tweeting on US Independence Day, Modi ironically said: “As vibrant democracies, India and USA share values of freedom and liberty. Our strategic partnership has a truly global significance.” Indians in reality enjoy an elected autocracy, not democracy.

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Vol. 54, No. 9, Aug 29 - Sep 4, 2021