June 4, 1989 was a dark day as the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) ordered 2 lakh soldiers armoured with tanks, to suppress a peaceful pro-democracy protest in Beijing Tiananmen Square. It is one of the worst days in history which led to hundreds of casualties. Despite the constant efforts of the Chinese Government to wipe out this episode from history, it lives on in the memories of the people.
The casualty count from the Tiananmen Democracy Movement may be insignificant when compared to the millions who died during the Great Leap Forward or the Cultural Revolution. Its importance, however, is found not in the number of victims, but its objectives and the strength of its memory.
The CCPargues that China, with its massive demographic, long, uninterrupted legacy, and cultural heritage, has no desire – or even need – for a democratic society, and is far better off following its own “exceptional” path of political dictatorship coupled with a market economy.
However, Tiananmen Square demonstrated to the world that the Chinese citizens are no different from anybody else. When given the opportunity to openly express themselves, they embraced it and howled in unison their longing for democracy, freedom, and human rights. To claim that the Chinese are unsuited to, or not yet ready for, democracy and freedom are to view them as less than human beings.
The CCP says that it has reached a ‘clear conclusion’ on Tiananmen, that it was a counter revolutionary riot and that it only involved a tiny minority of troublemakers, who needed to be crushed to make sure that the country’s peace and economic growth is not disturbed.
However, experts and historian maintain that these protests were neither ‘counter-revolutionary’ nor a riot in any way. They were mass uprisings of people having a national awakening, in which students, workers and professionals of all sorts gathered peacefully in public squares around the country. They wanted their rights guaranteed by the constitution, they wanted their freedom of speech and wanted the power to choose their leaders and party through proper elections.