35 Years after Tiananmen Square: Is the Opportunity to Mourn Not Even Allowed?

To maintain and strengthen a one-party dictatorship, even the few remaining opportunities for mourning are being taken away. There is concern about the growing power of the Chinese Communist Party, which no longer allows any dissent.

June 4 marked the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square incident, in which the administration of the Communist Party suppressed the pro-democracy movement of students and others, resulting in numerous deaths and injuries. The Communist Party has declared the incident a “counterrevolutionary rebellion” and justified its suppression by force.

The Chinese government puts the death toll in the incident at 319, but the actual number is believed to be much higher.

It is regrettable that the Communist Party has not at all responded to the demands of the victims’ bereaved families and others for the truth to be revealed or for compensation, and it has stifled any movement that would lead to a reevaluation of the incident through a thorough control of information.

In China, even if one tries to learn about the incident, one cannot even search for it online. An increasing number of young people are unaware of the incident itself. As the families of the victims and others continue to age, it is inevitable that the incident will further fade away in China.

What is of concern is that under Chinese President Xi Jinping’s administration, which was launched in 2012, the situation regarding human rights and freedom of speech has significantly regressed.

The Xi administration has made national security a top priority and has been creating a system of monitoring and controlling the people through the use of advanced technology. In the past, protests were frequent in China, but now information on protests is captured by authorities in advance, and it is difficult for people to even express their discontent.

The administration may have a sense of urgency that if criticism of the party and the government is left unchecked, it could lead to the collapse of one-party rule.

In Hong Kong, where memorial gatherings were previously allowed, memorial activities also have been effectively banned since 2020 when the national security law was introduced to crack down on anti-government activities.

To complement the law, the Safeguarding National Security Ordinance took effect in March this year, and former leaders of pro-democracy groups who had organized memorial services, along with others, were arrested reportedly for their activities, including posting “seditious” messages about the incident on social media.

People are leaving China as they dislike the Communist Party’s tightening of control. If the iron-fisted rule continues, the sense of stagnation in society and the economy will increase, and this may hinder China’s long-term development.

After the incident, Japan announced the resumption of its economic assistance ahead of other Western countries that continued to impose sanctions against China. Japan hoped that China’s development would lead to its democratization, but it must be said that such a view ultimately fell wide of the mark.

While strengthening domestic control, China is expanding its military capabilities and attempting to change the status quo in the East China Sea, the South China Sea and elsewhere. Japan needs to cooperate with the United States and Europe and persistently urge China to comply with international norms.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2024)