China defends Tiananmen crackdown in rare comments

This file photo taken on 2 June 1989 shows hundreds of thousands of Chinese gathering around a 10-metre replica of the Statue of Liberty (C), called the Goddess of Democracy, in Tiananmen Square demanding democracy despite martial law in BeijingImage copyright
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The 1989 Tiananmen protests were the greatest challenge China’s communist rulers had faced

China has defended the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in a rare public acknowledgement of events.

Defence Minister Wei Fenghe told a regional forum that stopping the “turbulence” was the “correct” policy.

In spring 1989, students and workers occupied Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in a massive pro-democracy protest. Many were killed in a brutal clampdown by the communist authorities.

Reporting on the events is heavily censored in China.

Tuesday marks 30 years since six weeks of demonstrations ended with the Beijing massacre of 3-4 June.

“That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence which is a correct policy,” General Wei Fenghe told a security forum in Singapore, responding to a question from the audience.

“The 30 years have proven that China has undergone major changes,” he said, adding that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development”.

The Chinese government has never said how many protesters were killed, although estimates range from the hundreds to thousands.

‘Acts of forgettance’

There are no official acts of remembrance for the events of 1989 in Beijing. But that statement, although factually correct, is far too neutral.

In truth, what happened in Tiananmen Square is marked faithfully each year by a massive, national act of what might more properly be called “forgettance”.

In the weeks leading up to 4 June, the world’s biggest censorship machine goes into overdrive as a huge dragnet of automated algorithms and tens of thousands of human expurgators cleanse the internet of any reference, however oblique.

Those deemed to have been too provocative in their attempts to evade the controls can be jailed – with sentences of up to three and a half years recently handed down to a group of men who had tried to commemorate the anniversary with a product label.

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