Between a state’s almighty attempt to erase a historical moment from the minds of people within its territory and commemoration of the same event worldwide, the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on Wednesday starkly exposed the continuing repression of dissenters in China. The communist state deployed its security apparatus, as policemen reduced the square to a restricted area and censors scoured the Internet to prevent any mention of the crackdown. This, despite pressure by several governments including the US on China to answer for the incident in 1989 when protests led by students with broad support from citizens bared a communist party riven by splits within.
China has marched on to become the world’s second largest economy with a growing military that has contributed to its diplomatic assertiveness. However, in spite of the economic freedom to individuals, the Chinese censorship machinery, systemic corruption, and festering social, environmental and rights issues beg the question as to for how long and at what cost will its single-party regime maintain “stability”. This concern is posed by none other than the former dissidents—now living in exile—who once led the pro-democracy movement.
The world acknowledged the battle against government repression in China by conferring the Nobel Peace Prize on writer-activist Liu Xiaobo, who was a participant at the 1989 protests and was jailed two decades later for inciting subversion of state power. Simmering discontent cannot be doused by repressive steps or denial of subversive history. The ruling party must allow room for dissent to nurture true democracy, calls for which have been made by the likes of Dalai Lama. Lastly, powerful states should mount pressure on China to end authoritarianism. Otherwise, the political establishment and the public will have to live in an environment of mutual distrust and fear.