27 years after Tiananmen, an opportunity for a political opening


Tens of thousands of people gathered in a Hong Kong park on Saturday evening to do what people across the border in mainland China could not: commemorate the anniversary of the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, The New York Times reports:

For Joshua Wong, 19, the student leader who was the public face of the massive 2014 sit-in protests, the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, which happened eight years before he was born, marked the beginning of Hong Kong’s own democracy movement.

Mr. Wong’s new political party is pushing for a referendum on Hong Kong’s future, and on Saturday night, his party and other pro-democracy political parties in Hong Kong were focused on raising money from the throngs of like-minded people flooding into the park.

Some 27 years after the Tiananmen uprising, we need to begin to think about the possibility of a new challenge to the party dictatorship in China and maybe even a new opportunity for a political opening, the National Endowment for Democracy’s Carl Gershman told an Initiatives for China event commemorating the 27th Anniversary of the massacre.

David Shambaugh’s China’s Future reflects a growing consensus among a number of China watchers that the regime suffers from systemic and ultimately fatal weaknesses, he noted:

1) The wealthiest Chinese citizens are parking their money abroad and are thinking of leaving; 2) there is increasing repression that Shambaugh considered to be a sign of weakness, not strength; 3) the regime was ideologically bankrupt; 4) It could not deal with the massive problem of corruption that is rooted in the authoritarian system; and 5) the reform process had reached an impasse, meaning that if the regime couldn’t adapt and modernize, it would fail.

Minxin Pei has written that “The Communist Party’s post-Tiananmen survival strategy is exhausted, and its new strategy is likely accelerating the party’s demise.”  And Andrew Nathan, who in the past has written about China’s “authoritarian resilience,” now writes that the Chinese regime “behaves as if it faces an existential threat.”

Computer hackers supporting China’s Communist government on Friday shut down the website of an anti-Communist group in Washington and disrupted an international online meeting highlighting the 1989 massacre, The Washington Free Beacon adds (HT:FPI).

On June 2, a bipartisan letter from the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) urged President Xi Jinping to lift restrictions on public discussion of the Tiananmen massacre and end reprisals against those seeking information about missing family members and former student leaders. The letter also urged the release of individuals detained for commemorating the Tiananmen anniversary including Yu Shiwen who is reportedly in poor health having suffered a stroke in detention.

“The U.S. needs a radical rethinking of our diplomatic approach” to China, said the CECC Chairs, highlighting concerns over human rights, rule of law and a new NGO law suppressing civil society, as the eighth and final U.S-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED) of the Obama administration begins this week (June 5-7, 2016) in Beijing.

On the anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, Taiwan’s new president told China on Saturday that democracy is nothing to fear, Reuters reports:

Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post on the 27th anniversary that Taiwan could serve as an example to China. Tsai said in the run-up to Taiwan’s elections earlier this year that she had seen people from China, as well as the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, mixing with crowds in Taiwan.

“These many friends, after experiencing things for themselves can see that in fact there’s nothing scary about democracy. Democracy is a good and fine thing,” wrote Tsai, who took office last month.

Perhaps the Tiananmen uprising was not the failure that some think it to be, the NED’s Gershman adds:

I am reminded of something said to me in 1987 by the great Polish philosopher, Leszek Kolakowski.  In reflecting on the crushing of the Solidarity movement in Poland in 1981 and other failed uprisings in Central Europe that, like the Tiananmen uprising, were forcibly repressed – the uprising in East Germany in 1953, the Hungarian Revolution in 1956, and the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 – Kolakowski said that while these freedom movements were repressed, they were not in the end defeated because they succeeded in raising the plateau from which future uprisings would take place.  Lessons were learned, movements matured, the power of the dictatorship was eroded, and eventually democracy was achieved…..

Chinese activists and intellectuals will need to broaden the social base of the opposition, and they can do that by developing ideas and programs that address the growing and complex needs of Chinese society.  The government and various demagogues will try to divert social discontent by channeling it into a malignant nationalism directed against ethnic minorities and foreign countries.  That is a recipe for real disaster for China and the world. RTWT

In the run-up to the 27th anniversary of the crackdown, officials began the annual round-up of activists and others whom they fear may seek to publicly commemorate the event, China Digital Times reported:

Related search terms on Weibo are inaccessible, and Tumblr was blocked in China. Activists Zhao Changqing, Zhang Baocheng, and Xu Caihong were detained in Beijing after holding what a friend called a private religious gathering.

Four activists who traveled around China taking photos of themselves wearing t-shirts reading, “June 4th. Never Forget” are under investigation, according to RFA.

Ding Zilin, the head of the Tiananmen Mothers group of family members of those killed June 4, was also reportedly under effective house arrest. …The Tiananmen Mothers issued an open letter to authorities detailing the treatment they have been subjected to in recent decades as they have continued to call for full accountability for the killings, calling it “white terror.” 

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