06/04/2020, 14.53
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Xi Jinping and the West: How to remember Tiananmen

by Bernardo Cervellera

After 31 years, information control, censorship, expulsion of dissidents, prison, physical and psychological torture, executions and deaths have been unable to stifle the demands of those students and workers of Tiananmen Square: democracy and an end to corruption. The West is indebted to the horror of Tiananmen: the screams, the tears, the blood of the young people killed by the people's army have become the holocaust that has exorcised violence and repression in Europe, at the fall of the Wall. And following this massacre, the West  has benefitted from the low-cost labor served on the plate of globalization to the cost of the millions. Calls for full democracy for China and Hong Kong.

Rome (AsiaNews) - For 31 years, the Chinese Communist Party has been using the most sophisticated and cruel weapons to erase all trace and memory of the massacre that took place in Tiananmen Square on the night between June 3 and 4 1989.

However, the controlled information, censorship, expulsion of dissidents, prison, physical and psychological torture, executions and deaths have been unable to stifle or destroy the demands of students and workers of the time, which are still relevant today: democracy and an end to corruption.

The fight against corruption has been challenged by the Party and Xi, who made it a weapon of his domination to target all of his political enemies. Democracy has been branded as Western pollution, foreign to Chinese culture. In an attempt to save the one-party dictatorship, Xi decreed that "Western values" should not be studied in Chinese universities. Even in national Catholic seminaries, the Church's social doctrine is obviously censored, with the passages relating to human dignity, family, civil society, subsidiarity, democracy all removed.

Yet democracy entered China with the advent of modernity, supported by the May 4 Movement that wanted to end the falling imperial culture. Post-empire China, despite all its approximations, is marked by democracy. This initial experience was aborted with the advent of Mao Zedong, who imposed the Chinese Communist Party empire, while claiming the legacy of the May 4th Movement.

The naive demands of the Tiananmen students were prepared by countless Chinese scholars and academics who, in dialogue with the West, revisiting their history, remembering the massacres of Maoism, wanted to shape a modern China that Mao had once again rolled back to a pre-modern level.

After the Tiananmen massacre, there were attempts in the 1990s to found a democratic party, whose advocates were all arrested and sentenced to years of imprisonment.

In the 2000s, intellectuals and dissidents created the luminous proposal for Charter 08. They included the great Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, who was left to die of cancer in prison.

Even in these months of the pandemic, after the Party's silences and complaints about the spread of the virus, the need for democracy has emerged, demanded loudly by doctors, intellectuals, academics and activists.

As a result of Beijing’s silence, Covid-19 and its trail of death spread throughout the world: demonstrating that democracy in China would save the lives of the Chinese and the international community.

Yet, right in the West there are lackluster politicians and jaded preachers, who say that democracy is not good for China: it is too large a country (as if India were a Principality of Monaco!); authoritarianism pays in economic and security terms (but not with Covid-19); Chinese culture is different from Western culture (as if the Chinese were a disabled community).

On the other hand, the West is the one that has gained the most from Tiananmen. I am convinced that if the fall of the Berlin Wall (9 November 1989) and of the other communist walls in Europe took place in a non-violent way, likened to "velvet" revolutions, this is due to the horror that was created in the world with the massacre of Tiananmen (June 4, 1989): the screams, the tears, the blood of the young people killed by the people's army became the holocaust that exorcised violence and repressions in Europe.

The economic modernizations desired by Deng Xiaoping in the 1990s were aimed at making the Chinese wealthy and, in the name of well-being, make them forget Tiananmen. Here too, the West has benefitted: China became the world’s factory and the West has been able to exploit the cheap labor that was served up on the plate of globalization in their millions.

Now that China has become a very attractive market and its middle class the target of every company, the West has become very shy about human rights and in unison with Xi Jinping proclaims the good of economic globalization, but in which dialogue between cultures -  and therefore democracy and human dignity -  is excluded. But if this does not happen, then globalization only serves to enslave the Chinese people, just as Xi Jinping and his Party are doing, intoxicating them with nationalism, but condemning them to the chains of rampant economic development without rights.

The West, despite being indebted to Tiananmen, has forgotten it just as the Chinese find themselves in a new season of demands for democracy and an end to corruption.

The battle that Hong Kong is offering in recent months on this line: full democracy, an end to corruption and violence of the government and law enforcement. The security law against "subversion, secession, terrorism and collaboration with foreign forces" serves to exclude that, the "virus" of democracy also spreads from Hong Kong to the continent, rekindling fires already lit.

If the West, at least out of gratitude, wants to remember Tiananmen, it must ask Beijing for transparency on the number of those who died crushed beneath the tanks then and under the coronavirus now; and it must find ways to guarantee full democracy in Hong Kong.

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