06/04/2014, 00.00
CHINA
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After 25 years, Beijing is wasting time trying to erase Tiananmen

by Bernardo Cervellera
Every year hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers are deployed to enforce silence on the massacre. Yet the repression and the arrests show that people have not forgotten. Everyday, farmers and workers endure their own daily Tiananmen because of China's unfair "success". From the ashes of the Communist Party and western materialist myths comes religious freedom.

Rome (AsiaNews) - With an oriental determination, Chinese authorities are using every means at their disposal to erase the memory of massacre of students and workers that took place in Tiananmen Square on the night of 3-4 June 1989.

During the year, anyone using Chinese search engines to find 'Tiananmen', '4 June', 'movement' or 'democracy' would come up blank. This year, even Google complained that as the anniversary approached, Beijing was boosting its filters, slowing down the Internet, to prevent people from remembering the event.

With equal determination, the authorities have been trying to prevent possible actions in the square where the massacre took place. Police in anti-riot gear and armed security forces have joined local guards and neighbourhood watch committees as well as regular uniformed and plainclothes police to patrol the site and every intersection in the capital out of fear that someone might be carrying a banner, wear a t-shirt or shout a slogan that might break the officially enforced silence.

The authorities have made huge military and economic efforts, paying 30,000 policemen, to check, delete, and block blogs and websites. More than a hundred billion dollars are spent each year on surveillance cameras, security guards and police.

Like in the Myth of Sisyphus, all this is useless. For 25 years, the victims' parents, democracy activists, professors, students, Christians and Buddhists have remembered the hundreds, if not thousands of people who were killed, crushed by tanks or gunned down, and the tens of thousands who were imprisoned, some driven to madness under torture.

The fear to confront the past leads to repression. Since April, at least 80 people have been searched, detained, questioned, and threatened by police for "disturbing public order". Bao Tong, 81, one of the few top party officials who opposed the 1989 crackdown, is among them.

For the past 25 years, the Communist Party has used repression and denial to hide the past and exempt itself from all criticism. Indeed, years ago, when he was president, Jiang Zemin said that killing students and workers was "necessary" to save the country from chaos and ensure the kind of economic development that has now become the envy of the world.

However, in the absence of political reform, unfettered economic development has led to greater criticism and more demonstrations. In the countryside, people are rising up against uncompensated land grabs in favour residential and industrial developments. In the cities, industrial workers are increasingly involved in labour action against poor working conditions (up to 16 hours a day), the lack of contracts and low wages.

In addition to these problems, the country is facing an environmental emergency with half a million people dying every year from lung diseases alone. In a country where about 70 per cent of water sources are contaminated, most family are equally scared by its poor food safety record. And China's one-child policy continues to favour selective abortions.

All these problems have their sad deadly corollary, a "daily Tiananmen" so to speak, that reminds people of what the party does, showing to what length it is willing to go to stay in power, today as it was 25 years ago.

After June 4, 1989, the Party lost its legitimacy because of its crackdown on the people. With its past legacy of death and its ongoing repression, it continues to lose legitimacy even now, despite its economic successes.

The Party's failure is also the failure of the West. In the aftermath of Tiananmen, the international community implemented an economic embargo against China, which it eventually whittled away on the materialist hope that economic development would also lead to political reforms.

This did not happen and now the West is economically subordinate to China, it not its ally. The economic crisis in Europe and the United States and China's bloodstained success should induce leaders to listen to the people.

In China, the betrayal of the Party's ideals and grassroots has pushed people to seek new spiritual resources with more and more people turning to religion, especially Christianity.

After years of searching, many dissidents have turned to the Christian faith. Instead of attacking the Churches, Beijing should widen religious freedom in order to build a society that is really harmonious, just and reconciled. However, here too Western cooperation is needed.

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