So this week is full to the brim with retrospectives about the Tiananmen massacre, and the end of the country-wide movement urging transparency and political rights in China. What makes these anniversaries unusual is these events unfolded in front of the entire world media. One reason this week has so many reflections is that many prominent journalists – in America, Europe, Asia and everywhere else – were there, and saw the movement grow, evolve, and die.
Often these pieces talk about how my Millennial compatriots in China have little or no knowledge of what happened in 1989. What isn’t much talked about is how many stories of this movement have never been recorded. It wasn’t just Beijing, it was cities all over China. Millions of people participated in at least some part of the protests. They didn’t all get shot, and most of them never even got arrested. They faded back into their normal lives and kept their mouths shut. But they still remember; someone my age when the tanks rolled in on the night of June 3/4 are in their late 40s today. It’s not just about the victims, the dead and the disappeared. The anniversary is also about those who saw the movement dry up, and the country engage in a concerted effort to forget.
Each year Hong Kong holds the largest remembrance of what happened on June 4th. They have the luxury of remembering the past, a right not afforded to their mainland counterparts.