Archive for ‘Mao Zedong’

04/06/2019

Tiananmen Square: What happened in the protests of 1989?

File photo of protestersImage copyright AFP
Image caption By early June 1989, huge numbers had gathered in Tiananmen Square

Thirty years ago, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square became the focus for large-scale protests, which were crushed by China’s Communist rulers.

The events produced one of the most iconic photos of the 20th Century – a lone protester standing in front of a line of army tanks.

What led up to the events?

In the 1980s, China was going through huge changes.

The ruling Communist Party began to allow some private companies and foreign investment.

Leader Deng Xiaoping hoped to boost the economy and raise living standards.

However, the move brought with it corruption, while at the same time raising hopes for greater political openness.

Protesters in Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Protesters in Tiananmen Square, 1989

The Communist Party was divided between those urging more rapid change and hardliners wanting to maintain strict state control.

In the mid-1980s, student-led protests started.

Those taking part included people who had lived abroad and been exposed to new ideas and higher standards of living.

How did the protests grow?

In spring 1989, the protests grew, with demands for greater political freedom.

Protesters were spurred on by the death of a leading politician, Hu Yaobang, who had overseen some of the economic and political changes.

Archive picture of Deng and HuImage copyrigh AFP
Image caption Deng Xiaoping (left) with Hu Yaobang

He had been pushed out of a top position in the party by political opponents two years earlier.

Tens of thousands gathered on the day of Hu’s funeral, in April, calling for greater freedom of speech and less censorship.

In the following weeks, protesters gathered in Tiananmen Square, with numbers estimated to be up to one million at their largest.

The square is one of Beijing’s most famous landmarks.

It is near the tomb of Mao Zedong, the founder of modern China, and the Great Hall of the People, used for Communist Party meetings.

What was the government’s response?

At first, the government took no direct action against the protesters.

Party officials disagreed on how to respond, some backing concessions, others wanting to take a harder line.

The hardliners won the debate, and in the last two weeks of May, martial law was declared in Beijing.

On 3 to 4 June, troops began to move towards Tiananmen Square, opening fire, crushing and arresting protesters to regain control of the area.

Who was Tank Man?

On 5 June, a man faced down a line of tanks heading away from the square.

He was carrying two shopping bags and was filmed walking to block the tanks from moving past.

"Tank Man" in BeijingImage copyright GETTY IMAGES

He was pulled away by two men.

It’s not known what happened to him but he’s become the defining image of the protests.

How many people died in the protests?

No-one knows for sure how many people were killed.

At the end of June 1989, the Chinese government said 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died.

Other estimates have ranged from hundreds to many thousands.

In 2017, newly released UK documents revealed that a diplomatic cable from then British Ambassador to China, Sir Alan Donald, had said that 10,000 had died.

Do people in China know what happened?

Discussion of the events that took place in Tiananmen Square is highly sensitive in China.

View of Tiananmen SquareImage copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Tiananmen Square now – full of tourists and surveillance cameras

Posts relating to the massacres are regularly removed from the internet, tightly controlled by the government.

So, for a younger generation who didn’t live through the protests, there is little awareness about what happened.

Source: The BBC

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24/02/2019

Fang Fenghui: China’s ex-top general jailed for life

China's President Xi Jinping and General Fang Fenghui, chief of the general staff of the Chinese People's Liberation Army in 2017Image copyrightAFP
Image captionFang Fenghui with President Xi Jinping in 2017

A former high-ranking Chinese general has been sentenced to life in jail for corruption, state media reports.

Fang Fenghui, ex-chief of joint staff of the People’s Liberation Army, was found guilty of bribery and having huge wealth that he had been unable to account for, according to Xinhua.

The 67-year-old accompanied President Xi Jinping in his first meeting with US President Donald Trump in 2017.

Many officials have been jailed in what Mr Xi says is an anti-corruption drive.

The efforts have had a particular focus on the country’s military, which is the world’s largest and is undergoing a modernisation campaign.

Fang Fenghui lost his post with no explanation in 2017 and disappeared from public view. The government later confirmed he was under investigation for alleged corruption.

Fang Fenghui in 2017 in meeting with US officialsImage copyrightAFP
Image captionFang Fenghui in a meeting with US officials, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in Washington in 2017

He was also a member of the powerful Central Military Commission, China’s supreme military body, and was close to Zhang Yang, who also served on the commission and was found dead in 2017 while being investigated for corruption.

Fang was expelled from the Communist Party last year ahead of his trial at a military court.

All his assets have been confiscated, Xinhua adds, without mentioning how much money was involved.

It is unclear whether he was allowed to retain a lawyer, Reuters news agency reports.

High profile casualties of Xi Jinping's anti-corruption campaign: five people who have been purged by Xi include Zhou Yongkang, Sun Zhengcai, Xu Caihou, Guo Boxiong and Ling Jihua
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More than one million officials have been punished in the anti-corruption drive started by Mr Xi when he took power in 2012, the government says.

They include Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, both former vice chairman of the Central Military Commission. Xu died of cancer in 2015 before he could face trial while Guo was sentenced to life in prison for bribery in 2016.

The anti-corruption campaign has been described by some as a massive internal purge of opponents, on a scale not seen since the days of Mao Zedong, in whose Cultural Revolution many top officials were purged.

Source: The BBC

17/02/2019

Li Rui: The old guard Communist who was able to criticise Xi Jinping

Li RuiImage copyrightAFP
Image captionLi Rui remained an activist and idealist until his death

“We are not allowed to talk about past mistakes.”

Li Rui said this in 2013, while reflecting on the similarities between China’s then-new leader Xi Jinping and the founding father of Communist China, Mao Zedong.

Mr Xi, he warned, was echoing Mao’s suppression of individual thought, and was trying to build a similar cult of personality – both things he had experienced at first hand.

Li Rui joined the Communist Party in 1937, at the start of the brutal Sino-Japanese war, and 12 years before the party won the civil war that established the People’s Republic. He was hand-picked by Mao to become his personal secretary in 1958.

But he was also imprisoned soon afterwards for criticising Mao’s Great Leap Forward, the failed modernisation programme now thought to have killed between 30 and 60 million people through torture and starvation.

Despite this turbulent history with the party, the fact that Mr Li was one of the original revolutionaries meant that he occupied a special place in contemporary China – one that allowed him a degree of freedom to talk about the ruling party’s many issues, and how he felt things should be done differently.

People may not be allowed to talk about past mistakes, but Mr Li did it anyway – and his work has helped historians understand the truth and scale of Mao’s atrocities.

Li Rui died in Beiijng on Saturday, aged 101.

An underground revolutionary

As a university student, Mr Li joined a group of idealistic Communist activists protesting against Japanese occupation. Shortly afterwards, at the age of 20, he officially joined the party. He was tortured for his communist activism.

But things changed when the party came into power in 1949, and by 1958 Mr Li had become the youngest vice minister in China.

It was also that year that he had a meeting with Mao that would change the course of his life. Mao, having seen Mr Li argue passionately against building the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, chose him to be his personal secretary.

Their relationship didn’t last long.

‘Mao put no value on human life’

In 1959, Mr Li openly criticised Mao’s Great Leap Forward – a policy that was supposed to boost China’s economic output, but instead unleashed widespread famine across the country.

For this transgression Mr Li was expelled from the Communist Party, and he was imprisoned for eight years in Qincheng, maximum security prison built for the detention of disgraced senior party officials.

“Mao’s way of thinking and governing was terrifying,” he would tell the Guardian newspaper many years later. “He put no value on human life. The deaths of others meant nothing to him.”

Mao ZedongImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLi Rui said Mao Zedong, pictured, “put no value on human life”

Following Mao’s death, the more pragmatic Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1978 and Mr Li was rehabilitated and allowed back into the party. He then became a strong advocate for political reform, and in his later years, threw himself into calling for China to move further towards a European socialist-style system.

He wrote five books on Mao, all of which were published overseas and banned in mainland China. His last book, published in 2013, called for the current “one-party, one-leader and one-ideology regime” to be overhauled. His daughter, Li Nanyang, has spoken of having her copies of his memoir confiscated at Beijing’s airport.

Aside from writing books, he worked right into his 90s as a patron of the reformist magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu – roughly translated as “China through the ages”.

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The magazine was taken over in 2016. Its editor Wu Si was forced out, and its former staff released a statement warning that “anybody who publishes any periodicals with the title of Yanhuang Chunqiu will be nothing to do with [them]”.

Professor Steve Tsang, director of SOAS’s China Institute, tells BBC News that this affected Li Rui deeply.

“The single most important thing that Li Rui had, was the patronage that he gave to the magazine Yanhuang Chunqiu,” Professor Tsang says. “It does still exist, but it’s been completely changed it terms of management and focus. It’s practically a different magazine.”

The last idealist

But even though his writing was censored, Mr Li was not a dissident – he remained a party member until his death. And the fact that he was left to compose his memoirs from a prestigious apartment block in Beijing shows how, despite his outspoken criticism of the current leadership, he continued to be revered for his role as one of the country’s original revolutionaries.

But with Mr Li dies the idealism of the activist who joined his party eight decades ago, and spent the years since vigorously rebelling against leaders who abused their power.

“He was among the last of that generation of idealists who joined the Communist Party at the beginning, and who tried to hold the Communist Party to the rhetoric [they heard] when they were being recruited,” Prof Tsang says.

“There is probably nobody else who will hold the party now to what the party had originally said it was meant to do.”

Source: The BBC

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