Tiananmen Square: 25 years on

Every spring, an old friend of mine named Xu Jue makes a trip to the Babao­shan cemetery in the western suburbs of Beijing to lay flowers on the tombs of her dead son and husband. She always plans her visit for April 5, which is the holiday of Pure Brightness, or Qingming. The traditional Chinese calendar has three festivals to honour the dead and Qingming is the most important – so important that in 2008 the government, which for decades had tried to suppress traditional religious practices, declared it a national holiday and gave people a day off to fulfil their obligations.

Nowadays, Communist Party officials participate too; almost every year, they are shown on national television visiting the shrines of Communist martyrs or worshipping the mythic founder of the Chinese people, the Yellow Emperor, at a grandiose monument on the Yellow River.

But remembering can raise unpleasant questions. A few days before Xu Jue’s planned visit, two police officers come by her house to tell her that they will do her a special favour. They will escort her personally to the cemetery and help her sweep the tombs and lay the flowers. Their condition is that they won’t go on the emotive day of April 5. Instead, they’ll go a few days earlier. She knows she has no choice and accepts. Each year they cut a strange sight: an old lady arriving in a black sedan with four plainclothes police officers, who follow her to the tombstones of the dead men in her life.

Xu Jue’s son was shot dead by a soldier. Within a few weeks, her husband’s hair had turned white. Five years later, he died. Qisile, she explained: angered to death. On her husband’s tombstone is a poem explaining what killed both men:

Let us offer a bouquet of fresh flowers

Eight calla lilies

Nine yellow chrysanthemums

Six white tulips

Four red roses

Eight-nine-six-four: June 4, 1989.

Ian Johnson

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22 Responses to Tiananmen Square: 25 years on

  1. C.L.

    Never forget that the communists were fully supported for decades by the Whitlamite left.

  2. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    We find sadness, history and people’s losses memorialized everywhere we go, Sinc. This is a beautiful memorium to a time and place being wilfully forgotten, and not least, to a son, not forgotten. As CL says above, the Left supported and/or ignored the excesses of the Communists in Asia in their rush to embrace what they thought was some way forward, but which was in reality a brutal chimera. Thank you Ian Johnston, lest we too forget.

  3. blogstrop

    It was a shocking thing, organised by Li Peng.

    But now, consider for a moment that only the major communist countries have not fully imbibed the PC kool aid that prevents the west from dealing effectively with Islamic incursions, be they cultural or violently militant, or the latter hiding behind the former, waiting for their time to come.

  4. Baldrick

    When will the ABC’s FactCheck unit come out and denounce the “counter-revolutionary rebellion of Tiananmen Square” as being ‘scaremongering’ or ‘overblown’. Surely it’s only a matter of time that the ABC re-write history and proclaim … ‘Long Live the Great, Glorious, and Righteous Communist Party!’.

  5. It’s very difficult to trumpet to the world that the Chinese People are superior to the rest of the decadent peasants, especially when the leaders run over these superior people with tanks and APCs.
    But they still manage to do it.
    Now that is a superiority complex.

  6. Rabz

    So, I’m presuming that the official western leftist position on Tienanmen Square is still that “it never happened”?

    There was certainly a hell of a lot bloviating to that effect shortly after this “alleged” atrocity – although who could forget that preposterous ol’ sleazebag, hawkie, using it as an excuse to turn on the crocodile tears (yet bloody again).

  7. Token

    So, I’m presuming that the official western leftist position on Tienanmen Square is still that “it never happened”?

    …it will get the same level of coverage as our media would provide about a man who is standing over the headless body of a war veteran, holding the head in one hand and the koran in the other, shouting words from the muslim holy book…

  8. eb

    Foreign Correspondent on the ABC last night was good though; the full half hour on Tienanmen Square.

  9. Supplice

    Blogstrop, Japan is communist now?

  10. Token

    Supplice, are you referring to the annual visit of Japanese PM’s to honour their ancestors?

  11. Supplice

    No, the huge cultural and legal barriers that Japan has to Islamofascism

  12. Robert Blair

    Blogstrop has a point:

    only the major communist countries have not fully imbibed the PC kool aid

    However, China has the advantage of being a mono-culture, and a newly confident one at that.

    It is the multiculturalism that breeds Political Correctness in the West. Which is odd, because the concept was pretty much invented in China and perfected during the Cultural Revolution.

    A time may come when, for all practical purposes, people may have more personal and financial freedom in China than here in Australia.

    It is already the case that a lot of the incursions on personal freedom complained about on this blog do not exist in China.
    There you have freedom to smoke, freedom to vape, freedom to use a huge range of drugs that are either illegal, or require prescription in Australia. I am talking about drugs like modafinal and racetam (brain boosters) and a bunch of anti-cancer and anti-virals that are still tied up in the FDA, but are available over the counter in China and Russia etc.

    A businessman who is prepared to deal with the corruption may well decide that he is better off starting up in Shenzen rather than Victoria – because he has more freedom to operate.

    Of course, at any time the Party can issue an edict, and all your plans are shattered. But then again, an unaccountable Quango in Australia can (and often does) do the same thing.

  13. john constantine

    having a beer with a mate and his chinese missus last night.

    the tank/protester footage was broadcast on the tv, and the mid-thirties chinese lass mentioned that she had never seen the footage or heard of the protest until she arrived in australia. she was polite, but obviously found it a little hard to grasp why australians found it to be an important issue in dealing with or understanding chinese in 2014

  14. Token

    A businessman who is prepared to deal with the corruption may well decide that he is better off starting up in Shenzen rather than Victoria – because he has more freedom to operate.

    No need to keep buying off the latest spiv from Trades Tammany Hall and their clients in their parliamentary wing.

  15. Baldrick

    Interesting 13-minute film, which was shot in 2005 in Beijing on the campus of Peking University and in Tiananmen Square … Filmmaker Liu Wei spends the day of June 4, 2005 simply asking passersby, “Do you know what day it is today?” What results are conversations not easily forgotten.

  16. nic

    For the thousands, young and old, who will pack Victoria park in HK tonight, what happened 25 years ago is a reminder of what China is truly capable of to its own people, let alone others.

  17. nic

    I’m lucky to have met some interesting people in my time. One I’ll put up there is the HK church minister who spirited the students out. Truly a remarkable man and an even more interesting story.

  18. Infidel Tiger

    Was this brave man protesting a $7 co-payment or the totalitarian idea that he may have to pay back his student loan?

  19. Grumbles

    Those who forget the lessons of History are doomed to repeat them

  20. Alfonso

    Most of the politically oppressed, ie. non Party apparatchik and threatened by the State, population of China has the right of refugee status and entry to Australia if they can only get to an Australian border.
    What are you waiting for fellas? Always room for another 50 million.

  21. Cheryl

    In 1984 my husband and I took advantage of Qantas inaugural flights into China and spent 10 days in Beijing. Had a wonderful time and became friendly with a young man, Bai, who worked in our hotel. We corresponded with him over the following 5 years, sent him wedding gifts and received lovely gifts in return from Bai and his new wife.

    He graduated to working in a foreign bank and was attempting to come to Australia for further education. I was assisting Bai with paper work and immigration requirements. Then Tiananmen Square happened.

    I sent a couple of very innocent letters following this period, but I never heard from Bai again. I often wonder, but hate to think, what may have become of him.

  22. blogstrop

    Supplice – fair point. Monoculturalism is a good defence. So far the UN and the running dogs of the MSM haven’t given Japan any stick about it, just about whale hunting.

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