Thursday, June 4, 2009

Twitter in China has been shut down!

Remembering Tiananmen Square, 20 Years Ago:

Twenty years ago, in China's Tiananmen Square, a lone student stood before tanks to stop the killing. Today, in commemoration, China has blocked YouTube and Twitter and most blogs that offer access to people outside of China. No foreign visitors or newsmen are allowed into the square today many tell us. By reports, the economy in China has improved, but has anything else really improved?

How did the massacre start?

The death of a pro-market, pro-democracy and anti-corruption official, Hu Yaobang, brought 1,000,000 people into Tiananmen Square to mourn in community. Protests were not organized or unified. There had been protests from April 15th through April 17th before the students marched to the square. 500 students from China University of Political Science and Law gathered before the Great Hall of the People until the police attempted to move them. By midnight, 3000 from Peking University joined them, and then 1000 from Tsinghua University. And thus the crowd grew. There were impromptu speeches. Many sang patriotic songs.

In the morning of April 18th, some presented seven demands and demanded to see members of the Standing Committee. Others tried to force their way into the Shongnanhai building complex demanding to see government leaders. Security police prevented this and the students formed a sit-in until April 20th when they were sent away by police using batons.

The funeral of Hu Yaobang was to be April 22, so 100,000 students gathered in the square before it was to be closed for the funeral. Throughout China there were various kinds of protests, and boycotts at the Universities. Their complaints had to do with corruption and demands for freedom of the press. Urban workers joined them because they were concerned about inflation and corruption.

In May, the students were well ordered, organizing an hunger strike and boycott of classes, just two days before Gorbachev was to visit.

Three young men lobbed paint filled eggs at the massive portrait of Mao Zedong. Other students, showing their respect for order, helped the police to arrest them. They were kept in prison until 1998 and 2000. The hunger strike was the main focus and did rally widespread support both in China and outside.

Today, in 2009, those three men met in Washington. Two are currently living in the United States and one, Lu Decheng, is living in Calgary, Canada. The Canadian government helped his wife and two children to be able to immigrate to Canada to join him just last year. Six months ago a new baby was born to them.

Back in China, in May 1989, two members of the leadership, Zhao Ziyang and Li Peng differed in their ideas about the protest. They had expected it to die down. Zhao Ziyang had argued for a soft response, whereas Li Pang argued for a crackdown. Ultimately, the lengthy demonstration was seen to be a threat to the stability of the country.

There were reports of protests in 400 cities. People were traveling to the Square to join in that protest. Martial Law was declared on May 20th. The hunger strike was in its third week and the government decided to act before there were deaths.

General Secretary Zhao Ziyang was ousted from leadership for being too soft. The local military was not in favor of a crackdown. They had been turned away once by the numbers of protesters. The political leadership looked for individual divisions willing to comply with orders. They brought in soldiers and tanks from outside the city -- the 27th and 28th Armies of the People's Liberation Army -- to take control of the city.

Protesters burned buses to use them as roadblocks. The soldiers used tear gas, rifles and tanks to clear the streets. The assault on the square began at 10:30 pm, June 3rd. APC's and armed troops with fixed bayonnets approached from various positions, shooting ahead and off to the sides. Students seeking to hide were pulled out and beaten. By 4 or 5 in the morning, tanks smashed into the square, crushing vehicles and people.

The unknown man who was famously pictured standing in front of the tanks to stop them at one intersection (the Avenue of Eternal Peace, ironically), has never resurfaced. It is believed by some that police executed him. Jan Wong in Red China Blues: My Long March from Mao to Now, wrote that he is alive and hiding in Mainland China.

The Chinese government claims that 241 died, including soldiers, but the Chinese Red Cross immediate figure was 2,600 deaths, mostly civilians.

Afterward, the government arrested protesters and their supporters and the foreign press was banned from the country.

China Today:

China is cracking down on the internet. 20 years ago students were demanding freedom of the press, and today, authorities are shutting down blogs, forums and social media such as Twitter to stem political discussion.

Technology is seen as a threat to an authoritarian society where information is tightly controlled.

China has the world's largest online population. People have gone to online communities to spread information. The government has Internet Monitors who close message boards. Blogs maintained by government critics are closed down. YouTube has been blocked in China since March and Twitter was shut down Tuesday night and Flikr could not be accessed as of yesterday.

In a country with freedom of the press, we will sometimes have opinion and propaganda masking as "news". There is nothing we can do about this except to ask those in public places (airports, bars and restaurants, medical waiting rooms etc..) showing such fake news to shut it off or change the channel.

No comments: