When Tiananmen happened, I was just a college freshman – fresh-eyed and away from home the first time in my life. I was just exploring my identity – second generation Chinese born to immigrant parents, seeking to understand how I fit into the world. The incidents in Tiananmen were eye-opening, shocking and maddening at the same time.
Fast forward 20 years. The anniversary sort of crept up on me. There is barely any mention of the anniversary on TV. Somehow, this incident has been swept away as the Chinese government has expertly positioned itself on the world stage over the past years and the success of the Beijing Olympics.
It’s interesting to hear the lengths that the Chinese government is going through in advance of the anniversary. Social networking sites, such as Twitter, are being blocked to stem the flow of information coming out of China. In a way, they are the best in our profession – the ability to control a message and put out the one that they want.
In 1989, this wasn’t the case. The government was unsure how to manage the spontaneous marches that took place and youthful excitement of the student leaders seeking change. Rather, their knee-jerk reaction resulted in the deadly incidents on June 4. The moment of transparency and openness was quickly closed.
While the Chinese government attempts a blackout in the coming days, I hope the voices of those able to leave China will serve as a reminder to those incidents 20 years ago this Thursday. Surely, no one government can completely block out the voices?
What lessons can we learn from Tiananmen and the Chinese government’s actions?