"When forgetting is compulsory, remembering can be a lonely business. Zhang
Xianling’s 19-year-old son was shot in the head as Chinese troops bloodily
suppressed the student-led protests that began in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in
1989. In the 32 years since, she and other Tiananmen Mothers have campaigned in
vain for an honest reckoning of the events of 4 June, while the Communist
party’s imposed amnesia has made the subject utterly taboo on the mainland.
“So there is hope after all!” she exclaimed, when the scale and passion of Hong
Kong’s annual vigil was described to her a few years ago. The event, attended
by up to 180,000 at its peak, was the largest in the world and kept the memory
of the killings alive on Chinese soil. But it will not happen this Friday, and
perhaps it will never happen again. The authorities have banned it for a second
year running, purportedly due to coronavirus concerns – though other mass
events continue, and authorities have warned that anyone who tries to
participate could face five years in jail. Macau has acted similarly.
Last year, thousands in Hong Kong defied the ban and gathered anyway. But 24
pro-democracy figures were subsequently charged with participating in an
unauthorised assembly or inciting others to do so; Joshua Wong, already jailed,
was sentenced to an additional 10 months after pleading guilty to involvement.
On Sunday, the 65-year-old activist known as “Grandma Wong” was arrested on
unauthorised assembly charges – for a solo demonstration that day to mark the
massacre. A museum commemorating the events was forced to shut three days after
opening, pending investigation. Plenty in the city plan to light a candle in
memory of the dead. But without the public space for discussion and collective
remembrance, the amnesia spreads.
The Communist party’s erasure of 1989’s killings has been so comprehensive and
effective that many young people on the mainland are unaware they happened, and
others have come to believe that perhaps the crackdown was necessary. The
silence grows. The right to remember what happened in 1989 is also the right to
know the truth more broadly: “Defending the memory of Tiananmen is the first
line of defence,” one Hong Kong lawyer said this week."
Via Glyn Moody.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics