Chinese Gov't Inflicts Its Selective Amnesia On Hong Kong, Forcing The Removal Of Tiananmen Square Massacre Monuments

from the gaslighting-at-gunpoint dept

To be subservient to the Chinese government is to be in a constant state of (mandated) denial. The government has a narrative to project. No, that’s not an accurate depiction. The state has a narrative to enforce.

An obscene amount of oppression and death is apparently nothing to be ashamed of. And how could the government be ashamed of it? It never happened. Whatever violence Chinese citizens saw perpetrated against them was merely the actions of a heroic and patriotic government, inflicting death and misery for the greater good. Of course, the only beneficiaries of this “greater good” are those inflicting death and misery. Hence the friction between fact and government fiction.

To make things easier for the people who serve the government (rather than the other way around), the Chinese government has spent years trying to eliminate the friction. Having a singular narrative may not fool people, but it at least gives them an official timeline to follow, which makes it easier to maintain “citizen scores” and stay off the radar of a government more interested in curbing thoughtcrime than actual crime.

The Chinese government’s steady incursion into the day-to-day activities of Hong Kong residents has been greeted with heated, sustained protests from residents of the region, as well as international condemnation. Neither of these reactions have slowed the Chinese government’s roll. Neither has its tacit agreement with the British government to leave Hong Kong unmolested until 2049. Since 1999, the Chinese government has inflicted its will on the extremely profitable region, stripping it of the democracy and independence that allowed it to flourish.

When regular laws just weren’t effective enough in shutting down Hong Kong protests, the Chinese government introduced a new national security law. With this vague and easily abused justification for crushing dissent, the Chinese government made resistance untenable by threatening protesters and critics with life sentences for daring to challenge the narrative.

Then it began erasing history. The Chinese government had already cleared the slate in China, eliminating its past misdeeds by rewriting textbooks, jailing dissenters, and creating an insular web overseen by multitudinous censors. Then it came for Hong Kong, using its “national security” pretext to jail journalists, target documentarians, and prevent artistic works challenging the official narrative from being displayed.

Now, it has come for the last physical remnants of its checkered past. Erasure is here if you want it. If you have no monument to atrocities, did the atrocities even happen?

Two more Hong Kong universities have removed works of art marking Beijing’s deadly 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen Square democracy protesters, as authorities move to erase memorials to the event.

The removals come a day after Hong Kong’s oldest university took down a statue named the Pillar of Shame, commemorating the events of 1989, sparking outcry by activists and dissident artists in the city and abroad.

Hong Kong used to be the one place in China where mass remembrance of Tiananmen was still tolerated, with thousands gathering each year to mourn the hundreds of democracy protesters killed by Chinese troops in 1989.

Excuses were made. Some were more honest than others. But the writing is on the wall. And those who are unwilling to read it are headed towards a lifetime of misery. The heads of these universities can see what the future holds. Dissent and criticism are one-way tickets to hard labor or reeducation.

CUHK said it removed the “unauthorised statue” after an internal assessment, adding that the groups responsible for moving it to the campus in 2010 were no longer functional.

Lingnan University said it had taken down a wall relief, also created by Chen, after having “reviewed and assessed items on campus that may pose legal and safety risks to the university community”.

The first excuse is bullshit. But it’s bullshit the Chinese government will find acceptable, especially since it resulted in the removal of a monument to its brutality. The second assessment is far more realistic. It at least informs readers that the university has accepted its fate as the neck under the heel of the Chinese government’s boot. Rather than subject administrators, teachers, and students to future brutality from the Chinese government, the school has decided to remove the inanimate provocateur. This cedes ground to the Chinese government’s narrative but at least prevents punishment for “misremembering” the Tiananmen Square Massacre. There is a clever backup plan for remembrance — a crowdsourced 3D model that would allow for swift, cheap replication of one of these monuments — but it’s clear Hong Kong entities will never officially host any version of these sculptures.

Having spent years making itself essential to supply chains — both as a producer and a consumer — the Chinese government is now openly mocking every critical statement, sanction, or tariff issued by foreign governments. It has demonstrated the strength of its convictions. And it has yet to see anything in response that would deter it from becoming its worst self. If it decides certain parts of its history no longer exist inside its borders, then that’s the way it’s going to be. The outcry coming from beyond its borders is just background noise.

But even though it means nothing to the Chinese government, it still means something to everyone else. World leaders need to confront the Chinese government about its actions and draw attention to its oppressive efforts and erasure of history when meeting with Chinese officials or addressing supply chain issues. The Chinese government may choose to remember its history selectively, but the rest of the world should be under no obligation to indulge in its fantasies.

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Comments on “Chinese Gov't Inflicts Its Selective Amnesia On Hong Kong, Forcing The Removal Of Tiananmen Square Massacre Monuments”

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Stephen T. Stone (profile) says:

Re:

To wit: Look at how Republicans are trying to ban “critical race theory”¹ in schools across the country.


¹ — And by “critical race theory”, I mean “the teaching of American history in a way that points out the reality of how the dominant racial group enslaved and oppressed minority racial groups”. The actual Critical Race Theory isn’t taught in any school outside of a university setting.

Anonymous Coward says:

Americans can’t remember the history of Julian Assange, let alone Vault 7, even while it is happening. How is that?

Censorship always has a terrible price, but that price will be paid even when you don’t think about it. China lets people know every time someone they worked with exposed them to COVID – the U.S. keeps that information a secret. And that has a price also.

Americans have left their eyes off our own country’s censorship, while our desire to preach sense to China has been subverted into a troll campaign to push for "independence movements" as fringe as the Republic of Texas. They’re not listening to us and we can’t make them. We have little choice but to leave them to suffer the disasters they are seeding right now. But how soon until we say the same of America?

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"…while our desire to preach sense to China has been subverted into a troll campaign to push for "independence movements" as fringe as the Republic of Texas."

Last I checked the polls some 60%+ of republicans and 40%+ of democrats were in favor of secession. That…is no longer a "fringe". The only reason states aren’t drawing up divorce papers is because those in favor of secession are distributed more or less evenly across the country – even the reddest of states is at least 45% liberal, making it damn hard to make the case to just up and leave the union.

"Censorship always has a terrible price, but that price will be paid even when you don’t think about it."

China has been paying that price since Qin Shi Huang though. Their millennia old system of imperial bureaucratic dictatorship has been geared around paying that price. They found how to make autocracy work, centering every executive decision around academic elites in civil service.

Censorship only causes great harm when a mode of government is built around humanitarian values such as freedom, democracy, and civil rights. In the west we believe in those values and try our best to make our governments at least attempt to operate by them.

China meanwhile values stability over everything else and takes the pragmatic tack that as long as a significant majority of the population is happy and prosperous the minority is irrelevant. Life is Good in China…if you’re Han, that is.
And to keep that majority from becoming upset on behalf of the minority it’s just convenient to preserve the national face by memory-holing any embarrassment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

China has been autocratic a long time, but with many different autocrats. The descendants of the Ming Dynasty were not in a good place once a traitor opened the gate in their wall. The Qing Dynasty in turn faded out ignominiously. Some of the Communists have not come out on top either.

Censorship may "work" at keeping a society autocratic, but the best interests of any individual autocrat would be served better by heeding Daoist principles to govern better by governing less.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

"Censorship may "work" at keeping a society autocratic, but the best interests of any individual autocrat would be served better by heeding Daoist principles to govern better by governing less."

This would be the place where I interject my opinion that in China the "individual autocrat" always tends to be the one who can’t see himself not being on the top and so never plans for that eventuality. Much like westerners in that particular regard.

"China has been autocratic a long time, but with many different autocrats. The descendants of the Ming Dynasty were not in a good place once a traitor opened the gate in their wall."

Which led to the mongols becoming just another dynasty and China being right back on track within a scant few generations. The figurehead has never been as important as the buraucratic culture which, barring minor modifications, has survived to this day. These days the mandarins wear suits and hold CEO positions where yesteryear the civil official in similar position helmed a minor clan and owned a few street stalls, a warehouse and a brothel.

With some 5000 years of unbroken history, 2,5 of which under an organized empire, something China is doing must be pretty conducive to stability and cultural preservation.

Sure, the Roman Republic, Roman Empire and the various pan-european hegemonies to arise left traces and scars but in general any union built by Europeans, Africans or South americans has historically come apart like nose wipes in a typhoon well before their 5th century.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Like the US and the "Red Scare" and McCarthyism?

You will note that you remain unapprehended, and have not been required to undergo mandatory reeducation for mentioning those.

There might be something about the US government that resists the authoritarian bent currently afflicting China. Perhaps part of it might be that the government of the US is a result of uniting fractious individual states in a compromise, where the communist party shattered the previous monolithic state to impose their own monolithic state.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

"You will note that you remain unapprehended, and have not been required to undergo mandatory reeducation for mentioning those."

After the church commission, yeah. Before that time, um, it really wasn’t conducive to your health, financial status, or employment to ask those questions. Because no one wanted to end up on Hoover’s or McCarthy’s little list.

"There might be something about the US government that resists the authoritarian bent currently afflicting China."

Not so much, no. Do note that the US has steadfastly undermined and eroded any civic protections – through the patriot acts and onwards, as long as anyone within US intelligence wants you nailed, then nailed you will be.

The only real difference here is that China is obsessed with face which makes them trigger on stuff which in the US is seen as normal.

There’s a reason presidents had to sign executive orders forbidding certain intelligence agencies to operate against american citizens. Abu Ghraib and gitmo aren’t aberrations.

No, what is truly dangerous about China is that in many respects the country as a whole works better than the US does. To 90% of the PRC citizenry life is pretty good and full of opportunity – as long as they remember to kowtow to Beijing in preferably public displays of gratitude. To a disturbingly large amount of americans, otoh, life is a never-ending rat race.

"Perhaps part of it might be that the government of the US is a result of uniting fractious individual states in a compromise…"

A pretty dated observation. Contemporary US seems to have "irreconcilable differences" as the background theme. With about a third of the citizenry currently willing to suffer from bad policies as long as said policies bring the pain to the other two thirds.

No, if you want to nag in China’s authoritarianism you need moral high ground and preferably a working example of how things are actually better on your side – the way you could clearly show when the conflict was between the "free west" and the Soviet Union. Neither of those really applies in this context anymore.

And after Trump you really can’t point at the Imperial Pooh Bear and claim higher ground.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rocky says:

Re: So what do you recommend we do about it?

China isn’t communist, it’s an oligarchy who only pay lip service to communism/Maoism these days.

Consider how modern China came about after the revolution, Mao implements "The Great Leap Forward" which ends up costing up to 70 million Chinese their lives which put him on the sidelines for half a decade in the early 60’s and when he got back in power he implemented the "Cultural Revolution" which killed off up to an additional 20 million Chinese. After a lot of killing and infighting Deng Xiaoping becomes the leader of the party in 1978 and he started rolling back most of the Maoist policies that had gutted China and laid down new policies that would pave the way for modernizing China but he also instituted the Four Cardinal Principles that would cement PRC’s absolute power.

Calling China communist is like calling the US a British colony.

ECA (profile) says:

For all the lies of war, its the winner(not the best group) that

we went to war in late 1800’s because of a Ship in Cuba, went boom(remember the maine).
We then went to central America and Kicked out a few Spanish rulers.
Then we went across the pacific, and took the Spanish islands away from Spain.
Didnt end until 1940, When Japan raised the Philippines, and 1 declared, "I shall return"
40 years of war, thats hardly ever read about.

Then a reanalysis of Korea and Vietnam have shown it wasnt NEEDED. We Dived in for No reason and didnt understand what we going to happen, until we lost To many men, and Spent to much on materials to keep it going.

Our military is to protect us from outside influences/attacks. And hte 1 that happened in Alaska. By the time we got up there(it wasnt a state) The Japanese had left. And our men ended up shooting at each other.

In most of What has happened After Vietnam, is to test and Show Who has the biggest PENIS.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'If you ignore all my crimes I'm a great person!'

Ah, nothing like china reminding people once again how pathetically easy it is to offend them with nothing more than accurate history, and all that that implies about them.

If the only way you can keep your prestigious image is to scrub any mention or evidence of your terrible actions then you’ve made clear that the only thing you regret about those actions is not that you did them but merely that people know about them.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Whatever your stance on these latest actions, please be aware that it’s unlikely that mass deaths occurred at Tiananmen Square. The US journalists who reported bloodshed that day have since admitted that they were nowhere near the square at the time. They describe creating fanciful descriptions of slaughter in an attempt to give China its own dark reflection of Kent State.

We can talk to the leaders of the student movement, who are deeply upset over the incident but don’t describe scenes of mass slaughter. Even the "tank man" image is part of a larger story – he stood in front of tanks as they were leaving the square, then got up on one to talk to the troops inside.

I can understand displeasure at this latest move, but I strongly urge you not to play into the US efforts to villainize China for things that never happened.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Rocky says:

Re: 护教士

Officially, China said about 200 civilians and a couple of dozen security personnel died during the protest. Estimates of dead from journalists and other people ranged from several hundred up to 1,000. Unofficial sources in China’s State Council reported that at least 10,000 people where killed.

Regardless how many died, people actually died – and when a government tries to erase such an event from history it’s usually because it makes them look very bad and that is an indication that the unofficial numbers tells the truth.

So, how many yuan do you get for being an China-apologist?

Arijirija says:

May 4 = June 4

And that’s really all there is to say on the matter. I expect a number of Chinese students won’t appreciate me conflating a student protest in 1919 against foreign autocracy and control of China with a student protest in 1989 against the Communist Party’s autocracy and control of China, but it’s interesting the number of correspondences that do exist. And the contrasts, of course.

It would make an interesting PhD thesis, comparing and contrasting all aspects of the May 4th 1919 student protest with those of the Tianamen Square student protest of 1989 culminating in the massacre on June 4th.

Anonymous Coward says:

China is a country ruled by the communist party, but its modern socialism, it allows tech companys and small companys to exist as long as they go along with orwellian 1984 state of surveillance and censorship, instead of our tvs watching us ,apps are installed to monitor citizens phones pcs, laptops.As orwell predicted history can be erased ,changed or allowed to fade away, so as to align with whatever is the official policy right now. its now hard to sanction china, as the world depends on its factorys to make cheap goods, phones and parts for pcs, laptops ,electronic devices

Anonymous Coward says:

Xi is well-known for erasing history.

They vivisected tens of thousands of people to ‘celebrate’ the Olympics, (essentially mass human sacrifice).

Xi has been accused of theft, fraud, murder and actively condoning rape of people who ‘meditate the wrong way’ (Falun Gong). All ‘erased’ officially.

etc etc

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

You do realize that Falungong are insane nutters on par with Mormonism and Scientology, right?

And that they teamed up with Trumpists and riding the Trump train?

And I’m very sure those organ transplants happened, but all of them need hard evidence. Evidence China has been quick to erase at every location alleged to have been involved in said vivisections.

Worse still, they’ve also been very successful in throwing up FUD from the so-called Xinjiang "leaks" because the fucker in charge is… you guessed it, also off his damn rocker.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There is a persistent problem in that when it comes to censuring China over bad behavior the most loud and strident cries don’t come from verifiable atrocities perpetrated in Xinjiang and Tibet…but from the conspiracy theorists who try to pin Chinese human sacrifice or Covid being biowarfare perpetrated by the Yellow Peril alongside their favorite Chemtrails and Gay Frog theories.

This makes it significantly harder to make the factual complaints stick.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Appalling

"Wow. I sure am glad I live in a country where statues and moments aren’t torn down to satisfy political agendas."

Really? I think if I lived in a country which kept statuery of, say, Hermann Göring around because some benighted fuckwit thought it’d be "political" to tear it down…I’d be pretty miffed about that country.

Now if you want a slave owner and confirmed pedophile immortalized in city hall then be my fucking guest.

But don’t be shy about lamenting the wokeness about not wanting to honor a man just because he kept a minor as a sex slave. It’s about the type of "conservative value" I expect to hear from your lot by now.

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