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Two Anniversaries and Their Meaning

The Times, which has filed first-rate reports on the subject of Chinese repression, informed its readers a few days ago that on “the 25th anniversary of the bloodshed that convulsed the nation and nearly sundered the Communist Party,  censors and security forces have waged an aggressive ‘stability maintenance’ campaign that has sent a chill through the ranks of Chinese legal advocates, liberal intellectuals and foreign journalists.” At least a dozen scholars and activists whom the government fears have been arrested, and even one person who posted a selfie on the internet of himself standing on the square and flashing a V sign has also been detained.

The Chinese no longer live in the type of regime that held power in Mao’s days, but one thing the government has not abandoned has been the repressive power of the state, which clamps down on anyone its leaders fear might raise the specter of democracy. At Tiananmen, the student protestors had created a statue modeled after our own Statue of Liberty that they named “The Goddess of Democracy.” Today,  China’s president, Xi Jinping, the Times story continues, “15 months into the job, is determined to stamp out dissent amid an ideological assault against liberal ideas that many view as part of a wide-ranging drive to consolidate power.”

When I was in China speaking throughout the country on a State Department program in 2000, academics at a liberal think tank told me that they thought it would take many decades for China to become a democracy like the United States, but that eventually it would occur. Today’s rulers want that day to come as far into the future as possible, and if they can, prevent it from ever happening.

The authorities fear the citizens learning the truth. But it is impossible to erase the memory of so many who were there. It is estimated that over one million people were on the streets the day the army fired into the unarmed civilians, and too many Chinese know what happened. Eventually, the new generation born after these events took place will learn about that sad day.

We who live in a still-free country, where we can speak our mind and criticize our leaders (and even call for the impeachment of our president when we feel he has violated the Constitutional requirements of his post), should take pause this Normandy landing observance day and remember how our nation stands as a beacon of freedom to those who live under repression.