Do you remember Tiananmen Square?
It’s difficult to believe that it was over two decades ago, but today, June 4th, indeed marks the twenty-four year anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, China.
This was when the communist dictatorship of that country quashed a political reform movement, which was begun by Beijing students who sought to bring about more freedom.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) ended these protests by force — which, really, is the only way governments can ever resolve disputes of this sort, since government by definition is an agency of force.
When it was all over, the People’s Republic of China began arresting its people on a widespread scale.
They also went to great lengths to suppress protesters and other people of China who were supportive of the protesters’ cause.
The People’s Republic of China banned the foreign press and controlled all later coverage of the event.
Members of the Party who had publicly sympathized with the protesters were purged, with several high-ranking members placed under house arrest, such as General Secretary Zhao Ziyang. The violent suppression of the Tiananmen Square protest caused widespread international condemnation of the PRC government (Andrew Nathan, The Tiananmen Papers).
The protesters — among whom were advocates of laissez-faire as well as disillusioned communists and Trotskyites and many other groups besides — were united only in their hatred of that oppressive regime. The Tiananmen Square protest was a protest against authoritarianism.
It actually began some seven weeks before, on April 15th, 1989, after the death of a largely pro-free-market, anti-corruption government official named Hu Yaobang. Many Chinese people wanted to mourn his death because they regarded him as something of a hero. By the eve of Hu’s funeral, a million people had gathered in Tiananmen Square.
In fact, many large-scale protests sprung up all throughout the cities of China, including Shanghai. These others remained peaceful, however.
It is not known exactly how many people died altogether in Tiananmen Square, although at one time the Chinese Red Cross gave a figure of 2,600, which they later denied.
During those seven weeks, many of these protesters were openly discussing a principle that we almost never hear discussed even in this country — though it was this country’s foundational principle — a principle that is so profound and so complex that only a small minority of people today grasp its awesome logic. That principle is the principle of individual rights.
It was, incidentally, this same communistic Chinese government that American pseudo-intellectuals, like Norman Mailer, Howard Zinn, and Noam Chomsky, have described as (quoting Chomsky’s own words) “a relatively livable and just society,” about which “one finds many things that are really quite admirable.” Furthermore says Chomsky:
China is an important example of a new society in which very interesting and positive things happened at the local level, in which a good deal of the collectivization and communization was really based on mass participation and took place after a level of understanding had been reached in the peasantry that led to this next step.
The word Tiananmen literally translates to “Gate of Heavenly Peace.”
Among the people who died in the Tiananmen Square massacre was a young girl, a student, who worked as a pastry chef in a Dim Sum cafe on the Yangtze. She was the daughter of an engineer. In a country that did not (and does not) permit freedom, she came to understand the principle of individual rights and the inseparable link that exists between property and person — which is to say, economics and politics, or body and brain, all of which amount to the same thing. And that, reader, is no small thing.