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Tiananmen Square Protest 30th Anniversary

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Republished from The Greanville Post

Live from the streets of China, Jeff J. Brown, China Rising, Capitalist Roads and Socialist Destinations, Sinoland

This article was first published February 25, 2015. It is republished by Jeff J Brown in anticipation of the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square protests of June 4th, 1989

Tall Tales of Tiananmen Tales and the Little Red Pill

The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies all this is indispensably necessary. George Orwell, in the book 1984, June 4th fell on a school day this year. When I am teaching children in China, even for 6th graders, liusi, (å"­å""= Six Four) is a shibboleth that gets bandied about quite a bit towards the culminating date. The most mundane refrain is that the internet slows down to an Arctic molasses pace. Then there is a general increase in the presence of security forces on the streets. They seem to grow exponentially as you travel to the nexus of the Middle Kingdom's universe, the Forbidden City, and its accompanying Tiananmen Square. In keeping with all the myriad, mind boggling, socioeconomic superlatives that China has and is accruing on the world stage, Tiananmen is the planet's fourth largest public square, weighing in at 440,000m² (880m by 500m). China still grabs the We're Number One medal in any case, as Xinghai Square, in Dalian, stretches out an expansive 1,100,000m². Bring your compass or GPS.

s usual, a few bright sparks in my class, those young minds who love to read through our class' subscription to the print edition of The China Daily newspaper and peruse articles on the educational current events website, The Day, dutifully asked me,

Mr. Brown, so how many people were killed during the Tiananmen massacre?

Before returning to China in 2010, I would have undoubtedly spouted the pedantic, Western mainstream media mantra,

Oh, I understand the Chinese army massacred many thousands.

Back in the day, even grade school kids always seemed to bring up the iconic, Western media image of Tank Man. We would all dutifully extol the virtues of this allegorical saint of resistance to tyranny and oppression, like some political superhero version of The Epic of Gilgamesh. This year, when Tank Man was proffered, I reflexively demurred.

At least this year, I had enough of a fledging knowledge to say,

I have read estimates from the low hundreds to a few thousand. My guess would be maybe a thousand.

Because 2014 is different. Having done hundreds of hours of serious research to write my book, 44 Days Backpacking in China (44 Days Publishing, 2013), I learned that Baba Beijing, my affectionate, tongue in cheek name for China's leadership, also has their version of the story to tell: the Tiananmen protests were ended with very little bloodshed, given the huge numbers of people involved, up to one million in and around the square. That out of a total of 300 deaths, a number of these were unarmed PLA soldiers, who were first sent into this teeming mass of humanity to stand sentry. Well organized, well armed protesters upped the ante of violence and Baba Beijing responded by sending in armed soldiers to suppress these violent groups. The rest of the protesters slowly left the square and the surrounding streets were emptied.

This year's classroom discussion was even more poignant. One student told us that his father had a friend who was killed during the protests and it was after all, the 25th anniversary, a quarter of a century since that fateful night. The Chinese take numerology very seriously.

As we were talking together, I couldn't help but ask myself, how would Uncle Sam respond if a few hundred thousand protesters were packed into Washington DC's National Mall, and well organized, well armed groups began assaulting and killing the authorities' security forces? I kept coming to the same conclusion: it would get really ugly, really fast.

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Sixteen years on the streets, living and working with the people of China: Jeff J. Brown is the author of 44 Days (2013) and Doctor Write Read's Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). In 2016 Punto Press released China (more...)

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