Tag: <span>Mikhail Gorbachev</span>

Tiananmen Square Appeals

4 June: Memories of Tiananmen Square.

4 June makes the security forces in China somewhat uneasy, especially in Hong Kong where, in the past, there were large memorial meetings tp remind people of 4 June 1989 when the military and police moved against those who had been protesting publicly for over a month.  Students from colleges and universities in China’s capital initiated protests after the death of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, Hu Yaobang on 15 April 1989 who was considered a liberal reformer. 

The movement then spread over a number of weeks to most of the major cities.  Students made numerous demands, among them were calls for an end to government corruption, increased funding for education, and freedom of the press.  As the movement went on, students were increasingly joined by industrial workers.

Hu Yaobang (1986). By dati.camera.it, CC BY 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

There were differences of opinion within the ruling government circle as to how to deal with the protests.  As the protests continued, there was more and more international media attention, especially as there were an increasing number of journalists in Beijing in advance of the visit of the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev with a large delegation of Soviet officials.

Mikhail Gorbachev in The White House Library, 12/8/1987. By Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy.

Students and intellectuals started writing petitions setting out demands that were signed by more and more people.  The decentralized structure of power and decisionmaking among groups in Tienanmen Square allowed for tactical innovation as each group was free to act as it desired and stress the symbols it wanted.  Thus art school students created the Goddess of Democracy, largely based on the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor.  The growth in support for the student-led protests led the more anti-reformist faction in the government to order a crackdown by the military and the police.  The tanks started to move into Tiananmen Square.

Replica of the statue “Goddess of Democracy” from the Tiananmen square protests in 1989. Photo taken in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, during the commemoration event for the 21st anniversary of the massacre. Photo by MarsmanRom & Isa Ng, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy: 4 June 1989.

Democratization from Below.

Since June 1989 there have been reforms within China – what we might call “democratization from below” but without large scale, highly visible public protests.  ‘Stability’ and ‘harmony’ have been the stated government policy aims, coloured by the breakup of the Soviet Union and fundamental changes in Eastern Europe.  So democratization needs to proceed quietly and gradually.  Such democratization requires long-term vision and skilful leadership.  Democratization is basically linked to individualization, to an ever-larger number of people thinking for themselves, creating their own life styles and ‘thinking outside the box’.  It can be a slow process and repressive forces within the government watch events closely. 

However, it is likely that the direction of individualism is set and cannot be reversed.

René Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 12
The Goddess of Democracy Education of World Citizenships.

The Goddess of Democracy: 4 June 1989.

Featured Picture: WroclawPoland: the memorial of 10th anniversary (1999) of Tian’anmen Sq. (BeijingChina) massacre, June 4th, 1989 The first version of this memorial was “erected” by Polish students a day after the massacre, June 5th 1989 – as a destroyed bicycle and a fragment of tank-track lying nearby. The version in the photograph was erected ten years later, in 1999, and the symbolism is identical: bicycles against tanks… Photo by Julo, Public domain.

The uprising of Chinese students, soon joined by workers, peasants, and those who called themselves shimin (citizens) started a new era of « reform from below » with the symbol of the Goddess of Democracy. Students from colleges and universities in China’s capital initiated protests after the death on 15 April 1989 of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party, the reformist Hu Yaobang. The movement then spread over a number of weeks to other major cities such as Chengdu, Xian and Changsha.

The students made numerous demands for reforms : among them were calls for an end to corruption in government, increased funding for education, greater freedom of expression, and increased democratic participation in decision-making which was already being put into practice within student organizations. On 4 May 1989, these student-led demands were structured into a written text and read out in Tiananmen Square. Intellectuals approved of the text and made the demands of reform their own.

We have made this statue as a memorial to democracy.

The protests took place against the background of a meeting between the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping putting an end to a 33-year freeze in Sino-Soviet relations. However, the visit of Gorbachev recalled to Chinese leaders the deep changes underway in the USSR as well as in Eastern Europe, formerly under Soviet influence.

There were fears within the Chinese ruling circle that such changes might be possible in China due to uncontolled demands from below. There were strong debates between hard-liners and reformers within the leadership as to how to handle the student protests. There were many foreign journalists in Beijing to cover the arrival of Mikhail Gorbachev and so the student protests were becoming front-page news in many parts of the world.

On 20 May 1989, martial law was declared giving the government greater legal right to act against protesters. Arrests started being made. The students responded with greater determination, and protesters from other parts of China joined those on Tiananmen Square.

On 29 May, during the night, students from the Central Academy of Fine Arts assembled a 37 foot-high Goddess of Democracy built in two days of plaster and styrfoam. As the statue was unvailed, a student announcement was made « We have made this statue as a memorial to democracy. »

The Goddess of Democracy

Replica of the statue “Goddess of Democracy” from the Tiananmen square protests in 1989. Photo taken in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, during the commemoration event for the 21st anniversary of the massacre.
Photo by MarsmanRom & Isa Ng, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Goddess of Democracy has not been rebuilt.

A Goddess of Democracy whose face was at the same level as the portrait of Mao Zedong was too much for the hard-liners. On the afternoon of 3 June, soldiers started moving into the Square, smashing student barricades. An unknown number of Beijing protesters were killed, succumbing to gunshots or crushed by tanks and armored personnel carriers. More are wounded. « Counter-revolutionary rebellion is now taking place. They aim to overthrow the People’s Republic of China » announced a government broadcast.

At 2 A.M. On 4 June, military transport trucks entered the Square. At 4 A.M. the Goddess of Democracy is toppled by a tank. By mid-morning, the Square is emptied of protesters. Hope for student-led democratic reforms is set aside. On 5 June, a lone man stopped a tank convoy heading for an empty Tiananmen Square along an empty Chang’an Avenue, a vivid image of the power of nonviolence in the face of military threats.

Since 1989, political and economic policy has been set by the political leadership. There have been shifts in policy, many of which have increased economic conditions. These reforms, however, were not articulated by groups of citizens. The Goddess of Democracy has not been rebuilt.

 

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

1 2 29