China shamelessly tries to erase 1989 massacre from history – OpEd – Eurasia Review
Through Benoît Rogers *
(UCA News) – Dictatorships are always afraid of two things: the truth and the people. And they will do everything possible to prevent people from knowing or remembering the truth.
This is true of all tyrannies, but not more so than the brutal Chinese Communist Party regime of Xi Jinping in Beijing. He has covered the causes of Covid-19, silences whistleblowers and angrily rejects calls for an independent international investigation. He is lying about the genocide of the Uyghurs. He denies the forced organ harvesting. He fears the people of Hong Kong and their desire for democracy. And for the past 32 years, the official line in China has been that “nothing happened” in Tiananmen Square and across the country on June 4, 1989.
As Louisa Lim describes it so well in her book People’s Republic of Amnesia, few people in China born after 1989 even know about the massacre, so much is the regime’s propaganda and information control. And as BBC correspondent John Sudworth revealed when he showed footage of Tank Man to Chinese on the streets of Beijing, even those of a generation old enough to remember claim – presumably by afraid – that they don’t.
On December 22, the Chinese regime attempted to inflict this enforced oblivion in Hong Kong when, under cover of darkness, the University of Hong Kong followed Beijing’s orders and removed the Pillar of Shame monument. commemorating the Tiananmen Square massacre. In the utmost secrecy, workers hung curtains and plastic barriers around the area and barricaded windows at 11 p.m. to obscure view of the site while security guards denied access to reporters and cordoned off the roads. A freight container was brought in by crane. The sound of construction could be heard, workers were pushing rubble wagons and by 1 a.m. local time the statue was gone.
The Pillar of Shame, which had stood on the University of Hong Kong campus for 24 years, was the work of Danish sculptor Jens Galschiøt. He responded to the news with a statement saying, “I am totally shocked that the University of Hong Kong is currently destroying the Pillar of Shame… It is my private property and the sculpture is mine personally… I will claim compensation for any damage to the sculpture. It is a shame and an abuse and shows that Hong Kong has become a brutal place with no laws and regulations such as the protection of the people, the arts and private property… And it is even more grotesque that they are using the party. Western, Christmas, to effect the destruction of the work of art.
The move is the final nail in Hong Kong’s coffin of freedoms – a coffin that many nails have been driven into in recent years. Until 2020, Hong Kong, because of its promises of freedoms and autonomy under the principle of “one country, two systems”, was the only city under Chinese sovereignty where the massacre of Tiananmen Square could be commemorated.
Every year on June 4, thousands of Hong Kong people gathered in the city’s Victoria Park to remember the 1989 massacre. Now, many planners of the vigil are in jail and the commemoration is prohibited.
The destruction of the Pillar of Shame shows the regime’s intention to ban not only vigils but all visible symbols, in the hope of erasing from the history books and memories of future generations all knowledge of the tragedy that s he was unleashed against the Chinese people in 1989. It represents the regime’s campaign to turn Hong Kong into another Communist Party-controlled city in China and incorporate it into the People’s Republic of Amnesia.
This is why the rest of the world has a responsibility to ensure that the 1989 massacre is never forgotten, and that those who died or were imprisoned simply for demonstrating for democracy are always honored and remembered. In their memory, and in solidarity with Hong Kong, there are two specific things we could do.
The first is to build pillars of shame outside as many Chinese embassies as possible, at least in the free world. From London to Tokyo, Washington to Seoul, Ottawa to Jakarta, Berlin to Wellington, Paris to Canberra, Delhi to Dili and beyond, the pillars of shame should be erected outside the Chinese Embassy or, if logistically impossible, at another important site, such as in front of the legislature or government buildings.
And the second – in solidarity with the students of the University of Hong Kong – would be for college campuses around the world to build a pillar of shame. Students from Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, St. Andrew’s, Edinburgh, Bristol, Exeter, London School of Economics, Imperial, University College and King’s College, London, and other major UK universities, as well as Harvard, Yale, Stanford , Princeton, Georgetown, Columbia and campuses across the United States, as well as Toronto, McGill, McMaster, British Columbia, Melbourne, Monash, Queensland, Sydney, University of New South Wales, National University Australia, the Sorbonne, Heidelberg, Bonn, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nagoya, Yonsei, Seoul National University, Chulalongkorn, Mahidol, Chiang Mai and beyond should consider building replicas of the Pillars of Shame as part a coordinated global commemoration campaign.
There might be other things to do as well. Cities could follow the lead of London’s Tower Hamlets Council, which passed a resolution to rename the streets around the site of the new Chinese Embassy to Tiananmen Square, Uyghur Court, Tibet Hill and Hong Kong Road. The capital of Lithuania, Vilnius, already has a Tibet Square, and an attempt was made in Washington, DC, seven years ago, to rename the street on which the Chinese Embassy Liu Xiaobo Plaza is located to the honor of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who later died in detention in 2017.
Others will have other creative ideas. But the key point is this: Now that Hong Kong, for now, has been silenced by Beijing, those of us living in the free world must step in, stand by Hong Kong, s’ side. express when those in Hong Kong cannot, and ensure that the Chinese regime’s attempts to erase history never succeed.
* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is co-founder and CEO of Hong Kong Watch, Senior Analyst for East Asia at the International Human Rights Organization CSW, co-founder and vice-president of the United Kingdom Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IAPC) and member of the board of directors of the Stop the Uyghur Genocide campaign. He is the author of six books, and his journey of faith is recounted in his book “From Burma to Rome: a journey through the Catholic Church”(Gracewing, 2015). The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.