In the West, knowledge of the Tiananmen Square protests and massacre in Beijing is so commonplace that 25 years later, even an allusion in Lego is instantly recognisable, conjuring memories of the time, the place, the victims and the perpetrators.
In ‘modern’ China, it could not be more different.
So successful have the Chinese censors and curators of false history been that reportedly only 15 out of 100 university students in Beijing have any knowledge of the event or recognise the iconic “tank man” image from that bloody day. The fact that the day is referred to and known in China as “Internet maintenance day” says everything that one needs to know about how this feat has been accomplished.
In Britain, America and elsewhere in the West there are certainly momentous issues to be debated, elections to be fought and leaders to be held to account. This is important work. But on the twenty-fifth anniversary of a day when hundreds of people were brazenly murdered by their government in the open air for the crime of engaging in political speech, let us be thankful for the relative safety in which our debates take place, and ever vigilant that we do not squander, barter away or tolerate the curtailment of our precious right to free speech.
Andrew Sullivan has curated a good selection of commentary and reflections on the Tiananmen Square protests anniversary here.
Image: Tiananmen Square, Mike Stimpson