Archive for ‘Tiananmen Square’

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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30/05/2019

Chinese communists disciplined for letting statue of Chairman Mao topple over in strong winds

  • Cadres in Hebei village ordered to undergo self-criticism after photo of statue lying face down in the shrubbery was widely circulated online
  • Reinforced plastic structure had been leaning against the wall awaiting repair when it was blown into the bushes
The photograph was widely circulated online, prompting a response from the local authorities. Photo: Weibo
The photograph was widely circulated online, prompting a response from the local authorities. Photo: Weibo
A couple of grass-roots Communist Party members from northern China have been disciplined after a statue of Mao Zedong was photographed lying face down surrounded by overgrown bushes.
The government of Fuping county in Hebei province issued a statement late on Tuesday that the party chief of Huashan village, where the statue used to stand, had been given a “serious warning” for failing to protect the statue.
His immediate superior, the party head of Chengnanzhuang township, also received a warning.
The disciplinary action came after a picture of the statue lying amid the shrubbery was widely circulated online, triggering an angry response from Mao’s admirers.
The village has become a revolutionary tourist destination because the founding father of the People’s Republic spent some time there in 1948.
100 years on from China’s May Fourth Movement, its message is being co-opted by the Communist Party
The local government said on Sunday that the statue, showing Chairman Mao with a clenched right fist, had been erected in 2017.

It was removed from its plinth earlier this month after cracks appeared in the reinforced plastic model and its colour started to fade.

The government said it had been leaning against a wall after its removal on May 3, but was blown over by strong gusts of wind several days later.

It has now been sent to the manufacturer for repair.

Mao’s image still adorns the banknotes and many public spaces in China. Photo: Alamy
Mao’s image still adorns the banknotes and many public spaces in China. Photo: Alamy

The local officials were punished for “lacking ideological understanding” of the removal, failing to give enough protection to the statue and being careless in their daily work, the local government said.

Besides penalties for the individuals, the township party committee was also ordered to undertake self-criticism – a practice that began under Mao.

Statues of Chairman Mao used to be a common scene all across China, many of them built in the late 1960s at the height of the Cultural Revolution.

Shenzhen official kicked out of Chinese Communist Party for ‘trading power for personal gain and sex’.

Although many of them were removed after his death when the government began the process of reform and opening up, they can still be seen in spaces such as town squares and university campuses. Mao’s face also remains on the country’s banknotes and a large portrait of him hangs in Beijing overlooking Tiananmen Square.

Source: SCMP

26/05/2019

China’s robot censors crank up as Tiananmen anniversary nears

BEIJING (Reuters) – It’s the most sensitive day of the year for China’s internet, the anniversary of the bloody June 4 crackdown on pro-democracy protests at Tiananmen Square, and with under two weeks to go, China’s robot censors are working overtime.

Censors at Chinese internet companies say tools to detect and block content related to the 1989 crackdown have reached unprecedented levels of accuracy, aided by machine learning and voice and image recognition.

“We sometimes say that the artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete,” said one content screening employee at Beijing Bytedance Co Ltd, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorised to speak to media.

Two employees at the firm said censorship of the Tiananmen crackdown, along with other highly sensitive issues including Taiwan and Tibet, is now largely automated.

Posts that allude to dates, images and names associated with the protests are automatically rejected.

“When I first began this kind of work four years ago there was opportunity to remove the images of Tiananmen, but now the artificial intelligence is very accurate,” one of the people said.

Four censors, working across Bytedance, Weibo Corp and Baidu Inc apps said they censor between 5,000-10,000 pieces of information a day, or five to seven pieces a minute, most of which they said were pornographic or violent content.

Despite advances in AI censorship, current-day tourist snaps in the square are sometimes unintentionally blocked, one of the censors said.

Bytedance declined to comment, while Weibo and Baidu did not respond to requests for comment.

SENSITIVE PERIOD

The Tiananmen crackdown is a taboo subject in China 30 years after the government sent tanks to quell student-led protests calling for democratic reforms. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

June 4th itself is marked by a cat-and-mouse game as people use more and more obscure references on social media sites, with obvious allusions blocked immediately. In some years, even the word “today” has been scrubbed.

In 2012, China’s most-watched stock index fell 64.89 points on the anniversary day here, echoing the date of the original event in what analysts said was likely a strange coincidence rather than a deliberate reference.

Still, censors blocked access to the term “Shanghai stock market” and to the index numbers themselves on microblogs, along with other obscure references to sensitive issues.

While companies censorship tools are becoming more refined, analysts, academics and users say heavy-handed policies mean sensitive periods before anniversaries and political events have become catch-alls for a wide range of sensitive content.

In the lead-up to this year’s Tiananmen Square anniversary, censorship on social media has targeted LGBT groups, labour and environment activists and NGOs, they say.

Upgrades to censorship tech have been urged on by new policies introduced by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). The group was set up – and officially led – by President Xi Jinping, whose tenure has been defined by increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.

The CAC did not respond to a request for comment.

Last November, the CAC introduced new rules aimed at quashing dissent online in China, where “falsifying the history of the Communist Party” on the internet is a punishable offence for both platforms and individuals.

The new rules require assessment reports and site visits for any internet platform that could be used to “socially mobilise” or lead to “major changes in public opinion”, including access to real names, network addresses, times of use, chat logs and call logs.

One official who works for CAC told Reuters the recent boost in online censorship is “very likely” linked to the upcoming anniversary.

“There is constant communication with the companies during this time,” said the official, who declined to directly talk about the Tiananmen, instead referring to the “the sensitive period in June”.

Companies, which are largely responsible for their own censorship, receive little in the way of directives from the CAC, but are responsible for creating guidelines in their own “internal ethical and party units”, the official said.

SECRET FACTS

With Xi’s tightening grip on the internet, the flow of information has been centralised under the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department and state media network. Censors and company staff say this reduces the pressure of censoring some events, including major political news, natural disasters and diplomatic visits.

“When it comes to news, the rule is simple… If it is not from state media first, it is not authorised, especially regarding the leaders and political items,” said one Baidu staffer.

“We have a basic list of keywords which include the 1989 details, but (AI) can more easily select those.”

Punishment for failing to properly censor content can be severe.

In the past six weeks, popular services including a Netease Inc news app, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s news app TianTian, and Sina Corp have all been hit with suspensions ranging from days to weeks, according to the CAC, meaning services are made temporarily unavailable on apps stores and online.

For internet users and activists, penalties can range from fines to jail time for spreading information about sensitive events online.

In China, social media accounts are linked to real names and national ID numbers by law, and companies are legally compelled to offer user information to authorities when requested.

“It has become normal to know things and also understand that they can’t be shared,” said one user, Andrew Hu. “They’re secret facts.”

In 2015, Hu spent three days in detention in his home region of Inner Mongolia after posting a comment about air pollution onto an unrelated image that alluded to the Tiananmen crackdown on Twitter-like social media site Weibo.

Hu, who declined to use his full Chinese name to avoid further run-ins with the law, said when police officers came to his parents house while he was on leave from his job in Beijing he was surprised, but not frightened.

“The responsible authorities and the internet users are equally confused,” said Hu. “Even if the enforcement is irregular, they know the simple option is to increase pressure.”

Source: Reuters

20/04/2019

Leica China video sparks backlash over Tiananmen Square image

A man stands in front of three tanksImage copyrightREUTERS
Image caption This year marks the 30th anniversary of the pro-democracy protests

A promotional video for camera company Leica has sparked backlash in China for featuring a famous Tiananmen Square image.

The video depicts photographers working in conflicts around the world, including a photographer covering the 1989 protests.

People on Chinese social media site Weibo have called for a boycott of the camera brand.

Leica has distanced itself from the video.

“Tank Man” was a lone protester who brought a column of tanks to a standstill during a crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing in 1989.

He refused to move out of the way and climbed onto the leading tank to speak to the driver. He was later pulled away from the scene by two men. What happened to him remains unknown.

Beginning with the caption “Beijing 1989”, the Leica video features a photographer taking the famous image. The “Tank Man” can be seen in the camera’s lens.

Users on Chinese social media site Weibo have been forbidden from commenting on recent official posts by Leica. However some people are managing to post carefully worded comments on earlier official Leica posts, BBC Monitoring has found.

A search of the hashtag Leica shows that 42,000 users have left posts on Weibo but only 10 are available to view.

Some comments urge users to “boycott the camera” and joke about the company being linked to “patriotic Huawei”.

Chinese technology giant Huawei has been restricted by the US and other countries over security concerns in telecommunications networks. Consumers in China have rallied around the company, which uses Leica technology in its latest mobile phones.

A spokeswoman for Leica told the South China Morning Post that the film was not an officially sanctioned marketing film commissioned by the company. However it features Leica cameras and the company’s logo at the end of the footage.

They added that the company “must therefore distance itself from the content shown in the video and regrets any misunderstandings of false conclusions that may have been drawn”.

The BBC has contacted Leica for additional comment.


How China keeps Tiananmen off the internet

By Kerry Allen, BBC Monitoring China analyst

China has banned all activists’ commemorations of the 1989 Tiananmen incident for years and has strictly regulated online discussion of it.

If users search for “Tiananmen” on domestic search engines like Baidu or social media platforms like Sina Weibo, they only see sunny pictures of the Forbidden City in Beijing. If any pictures of tanks running along Chang’an Avenue are visible in image searches, they are only from Victory Day parades.

Hundreds of references to 4 June 1989 are banned all-year round by thousands of cyber police, and Weibo steps up censorship of even seemingly innocuous references to the incident on its anniversary.

Simple candle emojis, and number sequences that reference the date, such as “46” and “64” (4 June) and “1989” (the year of the protests), are instantly deleted. Small businesses also struggle to market items on 4 June every year, if their sale price is 46 or 64 yuan. Such advertising posts are swiftly removed by nervous censors.

But creative users always find ways of circumventing the censors. For example in 2014, when Taylor Swift released her 1989 album, the album cover featuring the words “T.S.” and “1989” was seen as an effective metaphor by users to talk about the incident – as T.S. could be taken to mean “Tiananmen Square”.


More than one million Chinese students and workers occupied Tiananmen Square in 1989, beginning the largest political protest in communist China’s history. Six weeks of protests ended with the bloody crackdown on protesters of 3-4 June.

Estimates of the death toll range from several hundred to more than 1,000.

China’s statement at the end of June 1989 said that 200 civilians and several dozen security personnel had died in Beijing following the suppression of “counter-revolutionary riots” on 4 June 1989.

Source: The BBC

07/03/2019

In sensitive year for China, warnings against ‘erroneous thoughts’

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s ruling Communist Party is ramping up calls for political loyalty in a year of sensitive anniversaries, warning against “erroneous thoughts” as officials fall over themselves to pledge allegiance to President Xi Jinping and his philosophy.

This year is marked by some delicate milestones: 30 years since the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in and around Tiananmen Square; 60 years since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet into exile; and finally, on Oct. 1, 70 years since the founding of Communist China.

Born of turmoil and revolution, the Communist Party came to power in 1949 on the back of decades of civil war in which millions died, and has always been on high alert for “luan”, or “chaos”, and valued stability above all else.

“This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of new China,” Xi told legislators from Inner Mongolia on Tuesday, the opening day of the annual meeting of parliament. “Maintaining sustained, healthy economic development and social stability is a mission that is extremely arduous.”

Xi has tightened the party’s grip on almost every facet of government and life since assuming power in late 2012.

ROOTING OUT DISLOYALTY

The party has increasingly been making rooting out disloyalty and wavering from the party line a disciplinary offence to be enforced by its anti-corruption watchdog, whose role had ostensibly been to go after criminal acts such as bribery and lesser bureaucratic transgressions.

The graft buster said last month it would “uncover political deviation” in its political inspections this year of provincial governments and ministries.

Top graft buster Zhao Leji, in a January speech to the corruption watchdog, a full transcript of which the party released late February, used the word “loyalty” eight times.

“Set an example with your loyalty to the party,” Zhao said.

China has persistently denied its war on corruption is about political manoeuvring or Xi taking down his enemies. Xi told an audience in Seattle in 2015 that the anti-graft fight was no “House of Cards”-style power play, in a reference to the Netflix U.S. political drama.

The deeper fear for the party is some sort of unrest or a domestic or even international event fomenting a crisis that could end its rule.

Xi told officials in January they need to be on high alert for “black swan” events..

That same month the top law-enforcement official said China’s police must focus on withstanding “colour revolutions”, or popular uprisings, and treat the defence of China’s political system as central to their work.

The party has meanwhile shown no interest in political reform, and has been doubling down on the merits of the Communist Party, including this month rolling out English-language propaganda videos on state media-run Twitter accounts to laud “Chinese democracy”. Twitter remains blocked in China.

The official state news agency Xinhua said in an English-language commentary on Sunday that China was determined to stick to its political model and rejected Western-style democracy.
“The country began to learn about democracy a century ago, but soon found Western politics did not work here. Decades of turmoil and civil war followed,” it said.
Source: Reuters
01/03/2019

Chinese navy’s 70th birthday parade set to showcase country’s rising sea power

  • Next month’s nautical spectacle will allow country to show off its most advanced warships to an international audience
  • More than a dozen foreign navies are expected to join in, including the United States

Chinese navy’s 70th birthday parade showcases rising sea power

1 Mar 2019

Chinese warships pictured at the end of joint exercise with the Russian navy in 2016. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese warships pictured at the end of joint exercise with the Russian navy in 2016. Photo: Xinhua
China will hold a naval parade next month to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army Navy and will invite more than a dozen of foreign navies to participate.
The parade will take place on April 23 in the Yellow Sea off the coast of Qingdao in Shandong province, Ren Zhiqiang, a spokesman for the Ministry of National Defence, said on Thursday.
Ren did not provide further details of the parade but military analysts said the exercise would give the navy the opportunity to display its rapidly growing strength and show how that has increased in the past 12 months.

In April last year a naval review in the South China Sea featured a total of 48 vessels and 76 planes, including China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, its Type 094A and 095 nuclear submarines, 052D guided missile destroyers and J-15 fighter jets.

The experts expect that next month’s event will provide a showcase for several new and more powerful vessels including its home-grown aircraft carrier Type 001A, the Type 055 – Asia’s most powerful destroyer – and several nuclear submarines.

“The fact that China is holding the naval parade just one year after the South China Sea review shows the great importance [the leadership] attaches to the development of China’s maritime interests, the navy and its expansion,” navy expert Li Jie said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the crew on the deck of the cruiser Changsha following last year’s naval review. Photo: Xinhua
Chinese President Xi Jinping joined the crew on the deck of the cruiser Changsha following last year’s naval review. Photo: Xinhua

China also held a major naval parade in 2009 to mark the navy’s 60th anniversary.

It was smaller in scale than the upcoming extravaganza with 25 PLA vessels and 31 fighter jets taking part.

Fourteen foreign navies sent ships to the 2009 parade, including the USS Fitzgerald from America and the guided-missile cruiser Varyag from Russia. France, Australia, South Korea, India and Pakistan also joined in the event.

More foreign countries are expected to join the party this year as the PLA has become more active internationally and China has sold more warships to foreign navies.

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“The parade is more like a birthday party for the PLA Navy and the participation of foreign navies is a matter of diplomatic courtesy with few military implications,” said Yue Gang, a former PLA colonel.

Yue said the US and its allies would attend despite the rising tensions between the two sides.

Since 2015 the US and Chinese navies have engaged in a series of confrontations in the South China Sea as China strengthens its military presence in the region and the US has sought to challenge Beijing’s claims to the waters by conducting what it describes as “freedom of navigation” operations.

“I don’t expect they will send any of the warships that have taken part in such operations [to the parade],” Yue said.

China has greatly expanded its naval capabilities in recent years. Photo: AP
China has greatly expanded its naval capabilities in recent years. Photo: AP

It has been reported that the Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force has expressed an interest in joining the parade and the Philippines – which has a rival claim to the South China Sea – is planning to send a vessel to the event for the first time.

Li said militaries such as the US and Japan would not want to miss the chance to observe the PLA Navy closely.

“In addition, greater transparency [through the parade] will also help reassure smaller regional partners such as the Philippines that China is a friendly power despite its growing military strength,” he said.

China held its first naval parade in 1957 and April’s display will be the sixth such event.

Sailors also took part in the parade through Tiananmen Square to mark the foundation of the People’s Republic on October 1 1949.

Source: SCMP

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