June 4th- There, I Said It

Good morning from Beijing, on a day both ordinary and significant.

PBS produced a fascinating program about the so-called Tank Man. And, 25 years after the fact, new photos of that iconic moment were uncovered.

In Chinese society, the mere mention of the events in Tiananmen Square is discouraged. On Chinese social media, it’s forbidden. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are, of course, completely blocked. On the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, any mention of June 4th is automatically censored, so clever writers began referring to May 35th, as I learned from a podcast of On The Media. Maybe the Central Committee listens to OTM, too, because references to May 35th were soon deleted as well.

Does the June 4th massacre matter today, as the events and the perpetrators fade into history? After all, you can’t blame Barack Obama for the Vietnam War. The difference here is that, despite calls from its own people, the Chinese government will not give an accurate accounting of what happened and, through censorship, actively denies the reality.

It matters to the Chinese people. In the Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong, where the rules are much different, groups of Chinese held candlelight vigils for the June 4th victims. I know because you can see the first lines of each Google search result (like CNN’s Tiananmen: Activists mark date that can’t be mentioned), although clicking on them may not take you anywhere.

June 4th was our last full day in Beijing. On the 5th, when we boarded our first plane for the journey home, I was handed a newspaper and had a moment of shock. On the front page there was a photo of tearful people gathering in the streets. Was the Beijing newspaper actually covering a Tinanamen Square memorial?! Uh, no. The previous day, there was a bus accident in which the bus driver heroically helped passengers get to safety before he himself died of internal injuries.

In China, June 4th may come… but then June 5th pushes it aside for another year.

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