Victoria City, Taipei and Beijing A radical group of students in Hong Kong has decided to burn China’s national flag to commemorate the massacre of protesters at the Tiananmen Square in 1989. Not as extreme in their expression of protest, thousands of other citizens will assemble tonight for their annual commemoration of the Chinese state-sponsored genocide. Demonstrations will include candlelight marches to demand a “democratic China” at Victoria Park. Hundreds of students who were killed 26 years ago this day when the Government of China unleashed battle tanks on student demonstrators gathered to press for democracy at the landmark site of Beijing.

The people of Hong Kong are actually peeved at China’s defiance of the treaty with the United Kingdom before the latter handed the territory over to the former in 1990, which assured the area a great degree of autonomy. Last year, China said it would allow the people of Hong Kong to vote in Chinese elections provided the local candidates are approved by a committee formed by Beijing. This infuriated Hong Kongers who went on to organise massive protests in the streets that paralysed routine life of the region for 79 long days.

[dropcaps round=”no”]F[/dropcaps]rom neighbouring Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou called on Beijing this morning to face up to the realities of the 1989 incident and commit to fostering the development of democracy and human rights in mainland China. “This year marks the 26th anniversary of incident and the 70th anniversary of the ROC’s victory in the Second Sino-Japanese War [1937-1945],” Ma said. “These two events show the need for all governments to tackle traumatic pasts while engaging in dialogue and reconciliation with the people.”

According to the president, mainland China should take responsibility for incident and make amends with the families of victims. “We set the tone in addressing such tragedies as February 28, 1947 Incident and the white terror period in the 1950s,” he said.

History

In the spring of 1989, thousands of Chinese people, many of them students, marched into Beijing’s Tiananmen Square to call for democracy. Following weeks of peaceful protests, troops acted on the orders of Chinese Communist Party leaders to open fire on civilians and students in the early hours of June 4, ending the mass demonstrations. Though no official figure has been announced, the death toll is estimated to range from several hundred to thousands.

China’s stand

Chinese censors have blocked the search results of “June 4” and “Tiananmen Square” on the Internet. If mentioned at all in textbooks and campuses, the crackdown is described as an “incident” or a “counterrevolutionary riot” that deserved to be suppressed. Last month, a Chinese student studying abroad penned an open letter, co-signed by 10 other overseas Chinese students, calling for students in mainland China to discuss the Tiananmen Square crackdown. A state-run Chinese newspaper quickly condemned the letter for “twisting the facts of 26 years ago with narratives of some overseas hostile forces.”

Within China police stops people from arriving at the spot of mayhem to remember the dead.

Bodies of dead students lying in a Beijing hospital's storeroom, 4 June 1989
Bodies of dead students lying in a Beijing hospital’s storeroom, 4 June 1989

Reaction of Chinese overseas

Chinese university students living overseas are trying to break through the official silence with a widely circulated, passionately worded letter that encourages their compatriots to learn more about the Tiananmen massacre, Associated Press reports.

Written by University of Georgia graduate student Gu Yi, and co-signed by 10 other overseas Chinese students, the letter has become one of the few flashpoints as this year’s anniversary arrives, with Chinese authorities on guard against even the tiniest of commemorations.

“We do not ask the (Chinese Communist Party) to redress the events of that spring as killers are not the ones we turn to to clear the names of the dead, but killers must be tried,” the letter reads. “We do not forget, nor forgive, until justice is done and the ongoing persecution is halted.”

An online copy of the document has reached readers in China with the help of software that let PDFs get past Chinese censors, Gu said. The document has already drawn a strong rebuke from the Communist Party-run Global Times, which said in an editorial that the students “harshly attacked the current Chinese regime, twisting the facts of 26 years ago with narratives of some overseas hostile forces.”