The First Art Newspaper on the Net   Established in 1996 United States Sunday, January 20, 2019

China seeks to wipe Tiananmen from popular memory
This file photo taken on June 9, 1989 shows a soldier standing guard in front of People's Liberation Army tanks at Tiananmen Square as life slowly started returning to normal after the June 4 crackdown in Beijing. China's vast censorship machine does its utmost to wipe the slightest reference to the Tiananmen crackdown from books, television and the Internet, scrubbing the issue from public discussion and even from the minds of its younger generation. AFP PHOTO / FILES / CATHERINE HENRIETTE.

By: Julien Girault

BEIJING (AFP).- China's vast censorship machine does its utmost to wipe the slightest reference to the Tiananmen crackdown from books, television and the Internet, scrubbing the issue from public discussion and even from the minds of its younger generation.

In an example of George Orwell's "1984" dictum that "who controls the present controls the past", it reflects both the ruling Communist Party's immense power and its enduring sensitivity about its actions on June 3-4, 1989.

The overnight clearing of the square at the heart of Beijing, where student-led protesters had demanded reforms for seven weeks, left hundreds dead -- by some estimates more than 1,000 -- and the party isolated from its people and the world.

A third of China's population today was born afterwards, while many of those alive at the time hesitate to broach the sensitive topic -- leaving a huge swathe of those under 25 ignorant of the event.

"I don't know what you are talking about," a 20-year-old student at Peking University, one of China's most prestigious, told AFP when asked about the protests, looking slightly embarrassed.

Television, film and print media have always been under strict official control in Communist China.

Online, hundreds of millions of Chinese now have unprecedented access to information -- but only that approved by the authorities. An army of censors deletes topics deemed sensitive, even the most oblique references to the crackdown.

A Chinese equivalent of Wikipedia maintained by domestic Internet giant Baidu has no entry for the year 1989, let alone anything more specific.

On China's Twitter-like microblogging site Weibo, a long list of terms related to the June 4 crackdown are banned, including the characters for 6 and 4 strung together.

"The education system and the vast apparatus that censors the Chinese media and Internet have done such a formidable job at eliminating references to the events of 1989 that many young people are unaware of what happened or have only a faint notion of what happened," said Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of Danwei, a Beijing-based firm that tracks Chinese media and Internet.

"The result is that many young people who do not remember 1989 themselves would need an unusual degree of curiosity to look for information about what happened."

May 35
For censors in the know, no reference is too vague.

When the Shanghai stock market closed down 64.89 points on the 2012 anniversary -- an eerie echo of June 4, 1989 -- they blocked the term "Shanghai index" on social networks.

Last year they eliminated "big yellow duck" after an image circulated online parodying the Tank Man photo, with giant toy ducks standing in for the military vehicles blocked by a lone protester.

Web users find workarounds such as "May 35", "63 plus 1" or homonyms of banned words, though they too are eventually blacklisted.

"They are basically a mark of commemoration, like lighting up a candle somewhere even if no one understands what the reference is," said Jason Ng, a University of Toronto research fellow and author of "Blocked on Weibo".

"That means that you're still aware, you still want to remember."

The Chinese writer Ma Jian, who now lives in London, evoked the nation's collective silence in his 2008 novel "Beijing Coma", centred on the memories of a young Tiananmen demonstrator shot and left paralysed, mute and blind -- but aware.

The book is banned in China.

Chinese filmmaker Lou Ye's 2006 movie "Summer Palace", which depicts relationships against a backdrop of the protests, was shown at the Cannes festival but has never been released in his country.

Censors told him the sound and picture quality were not good enough for screening, he has said. He was banned from directing for five years.

Duty to speak
One group that refuses to stay silent is the Tiananmen Mothers, parents who lost children in the crackdown and every year call on authorities to give an account of what happened.

Yet Zhang Xianling, whose 19-year-old son was killed, sympathises with Chinese who do not try to learn more.

"A lot of people don't have time to know about it, or don't want to know about it, because they are busy, or want to make a living, or have to work -- this is understandable," she told AFP.

"But I believe that such a huge incident, such a huge tragedy, where so many innocent people were massacred... the truth cannot be covered up with lies forever."

Nonetheless Cui Weiping, an outspoken professor at Beijing Film Academy, says there is a duty to speak out. If silence continues, she has written, "June 4 will no longer be a crime that was committed by a small group of people, but one that we all participated in. It will become a shame on all of us".

Many of the participants at a private seminar she attended on Tiananmen three weeks ago have been detained, and she told AFP: "The situation is getting worse and worse.

"Of course, to remember is a moral obligation," she said. "Anything else is a betrayal of the people who were killed."

© 1994-2014 Agence France-Presse

Today's News

June 2, 2014

American artist Susan Hiller opens exhibition at the Abattoirs Museum in Toulouse

From Rauschenberg to Jeff Koons: The eye of Ileana Sonnabend on view in Venice

Sotheby's Beijing Spring Sale and selling exhibition 2014 attracts new Chinese bidders and buyers

Flowing Transition: Old Masters to be presented at the Neue Pinakothek in Munich

Frenchman Mehdi Nemmouche 'admits to' Brussels Jewish Museum shooting in video recording

"Cecil Beaton at Home: Ashcombe & Reddish" on view at the Salisbury Museum

OstLicht Galerie für Fotografie opens exhibition of works by David LaChapelle

Ethan Allen introduces rare and collectible lithographs with Modern Masters Collection

New book from Flammarion offers insight into Gustav Dore's life and prolific body of work

"Tea and Wine: A Shared Passion" exhibition at the Yishu 8 gallery opens in Beijing

First exhibition to explore the Jewish contribution to Modernism on view in San Francisco

Railwayana including the collection of Michael Max offered at Dreweatts & Bloomsbury Auctions

Group exhibition at San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art explores dynamics of art and technology

Snarkitecture X Beats collaborate to turn studio headphone into exclusive, limited edition piece of art

Artists Thomas Grünfeld and Gary Hume collaborate in new exhibition at Massimo De Carlo

China seeks to wipe Tiananmen from popular memory

The Indecent Eye: Marco Sanges exhibits at Hay Hill Gallery

"Rozanne Hawksley: War and Memory" opens at the Royal Museums Greenwich

A lifetime's collection of over 1,000 lots go under the hammer in Bonhams Michael Banfield Sale

"Palaces of The Seas: The Golden Age of French Ocean Liners" exhibition opens in Hong Kong

First solo exhibition in Berlin by the artist Mehtap Baydu opens at Berlinartprojects

Nick van Woert's first solo show in Italy opens at MAMbo - Museo d'Arte Moderna di Bologna

Frank Loveland collection offered collectors 'many brass rings' at Bertoia's $1.95M Spring auction

Most Popular Last Seven Days

1.- Rare 1943 Lincoln Cent sells for $204,000 at Heritage Auctions

2.- Exhibition is the first to shed light on the phenomenon of the princely painter

3.- Nathaniel Silver named new Curator of the Collection at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

4.- Rijksmuseum van Oudheden explores the mystical world of the ancient Egyptian gods

5.- Media error draws misleading reports on sale of 1943 Bronze Lincoln Cent

6.- Four men deny giant gold coin heist from Berlin's Bode Museum

7.- Tanya Bonakdar Gallery presents an immersive installation by Charles Long

8.- Egypt says stolen pharaonic tablet repatriated from United Kingdom

9.- Israeli museum under fire over 'McJesus' exhibit

10.- Claremont Rug Company founder Jan David Winitz reveals major shifts in high-end antique Oriental rug market

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
Editor & Publisher:Jose Villarreal - Consultant: Ignacio Villarreal Jr.
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc
Founder's Site. The most varied versions
of this beautiful prayer.
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful