Third Party & Independents Archives

Jiang Ling and June 4th 1989

He was a little younger than me and perhaps a little taller with a rather brisk and unfashionable haircut and a warm smile. It was thirty years ago and he was selling Tiananmen T-shirts on Queen Street near Spadina, as I recall, which is downtown Toronto just a little west of the city’s financial sector. I bought one and wore it till it was practically rags. It of course featured tank man on the front in a printed copy of the famous photograph.

It's hard perhaps for many to remember what an important event June 4, 1989 was. How the hope and promise of those hand-crafted statues raised aloft by the multitude in Beijing's main square sent thrilling waves of optimism around the world that China was on the verge of a massive change and even perhaps on the threshold of true democracy.

But it was a false hope and Lady Liberty was crushed mercilessly on the night of June 4th under the wheels of the PLA tanks that retook the square and turned out the lights of freedom that had flickered if for a brief moment.

We now have a remarkable piece in the New York Times written by Chris Buckley. It details the story from the eyes of a key witness: Jian Ling the daughter of a General and a proud PLA member who suggests that members of the military actually tried to persuade the political leaders to not attack the students and other protestors. They were ignored of course, and now a small group of dissidents (presumably in exile as is Jian Ling as of a week or two ago) is determined to maintain alive a chronicle of what actually happened leading up to and on the night of June 4th1989.

It is astonishing if you think about it, how successfully China's Communist party has covered up the event and reduced it to a cultural icon (tank man) rather than a historical record to be examined and evaluated.

But China cannot hide its own history just as it cannot hide the roughly million (perhaps more) Uighurs in internment camps in the country's far western region. And people like Jiang Ling will do their best to make sure the story is not airbrushed away by a Communist regime that has countries like Germany and Canada on their knees willing to service them any way they want it all in order to sell product, the detention of Huawei Vice President in Vancouver aside. And yes, America's relationship is even more intertwined, but we finally have a President who is pushing back with tariffs if less so with military displays and tactics.

But it has to be China itself that comes clean eventually and admits it killed unarmed students with overwhelming force. A mirror image in some ways of the brutality of coup d'etats in Latin America that killed in order to avoid left-wing regimes or the perceived threat of them.

With Xi in power, that seems to be a long way off. But one day it will come.

It always does, even if it seems years too late, because Justice delayed might be Justice denied to the victims, but it is still a form of Justice to those who remember, and to those who forget. God Bless Jiang Ling (she may very well be an atheist of course) in her brave endeavors to rescue the soul of her country.

May she someday succeed.

Posted by AllardK at May 31, 2019 2:25 PM
Comment #444208

The one thing the Chinese government fears most is their own people trying to wrestle free from under their thumb.

Posted by: d.a.n at May 31, 2019 4:15 PM
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