Tiananmen Square: 30 years on and China remains just as brutal

Tiananmen Square: 30 years on and China remains just as brutal

All countries have dark periods in their histories that are shameful at best. Like much of the West, Australia has a plethora of examples where atrocities have been committed, whether it be the Frontier Wars during colonisation or the White Australia Policy of the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries.

However, in Australia there has been an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and attempts to correct past trespasses. The effectiveness of those attempts is another matter, but it is safe to say that repairing damage will take about as long as the period in which the damage was inflicted. We also have the freedom to explore our history without censorship and to publicly call for action we consider restorative.

China, on the other hand, has been robbed of these opportunities by a power-obsessed ruling class with a disregard for humanity, freedom and individual empowerment.

The Chinese Defence Minister’s comments ahead of the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square serves as a stark reminder that while China’s economy has advanced in recent decades at unprecedented rates, the fundamental ideology of its ruling class has not shifted since the time of Chairman Mao.

Thirty years on from the massacre that saw thousands brutally murdered, the Chinese Government maintains its response was the “correct policy” because it quelled “political turbulence”, according to General Wei Fenghe.

The logic is bewildering, although not entirely surprising. The Communist Party of China also believes re-education labour camps will turn dissidents into citizens who “obey law, respect public virtue, love their country, love hard work, and possess certain standards of education and productive skills for the building of socialism.”

Then there is autonomous Xinjiang region, which has been transformed into a police state where its inhabitants, the Uighurs, are forced into internment camps that have been likened to concentration camps. According to Beijing, Uighurs enter the camps of their own free will — but survivors tell a different story of kidnapping, torture and brainwashing. The UN “estimates that upwards of a million [Uighurs are] being held in so-called counter-extremism centres and another two million [have] been forced into so-called ‘re-education camps’ for political and cultural indoctrination.”

So, 30 years on from Tiananmen Square, what do General Wei’s comments teach us about China? The only thing that has changed is its economic status.

Conversely, Tiananmen Square still has plenty to teach.

The famous photograph of the man standing steadfast in the path of an oncoming column of tanks is perhaps the most striking visual representation of peaceful, democratic protest ever recorded — being crushed by the military might of an authoritarian state. It should serve as a beacon of hope and strength to those fighting for democracy and liberty, and a reminder to cherish what we have for those of us fortunate enough to live in a democracy.

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