20 years since the death of Hu Yaobang

Wednesday marked the 20th anniversary of the death of former CCP General Secretary Hu Yaobang, the event which set off the protest movement leading up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre on June 4th, 1989.

The Chinese seem to have a tradition of expressing political will at the funerals of deposed leaders — like at Zhou Enlai’s funeral in 1976 — and that’s how Hu’s death manifested itself as a movement. Many years later the CCP was careful to suppress any subversive displays at the 2005 funeral of Hu’s successor Zhao Ziyang, the man who held the highest office in the land in 1989 and actually came out to express his sympathy with the protesters. If you’ve never heard of him, it’s not your fault — neither have a great many Chinese folks since he doesn’t get a mention in the textbooks these days…

Anyway, if you’re interested in China, or indeed if you are in China, I say you should try to think about the courage, optimism, and energy that those kids displayed as more and more of them gathered in the square (starting two days ago.) Remember that cab drivers, old ladies, regular folk who had worked for the state for their whole lives got caught up in the momentum and came out to support the students. Also take note of the media silence about this topic. Picture yourself as a patriotic youngster, camping out for days in the heat, waiting for an audience with the (presumably) benevolent neo-emperors, the stewards of the new socialist China, who, it was thought, would eventually come out of the old palace at Zhongnanhai and lend an ear to their humble subjects…

Here’s some fun facts about the bloodshed:
The CCP *knew* that international media was going to cover the events because Gorbachev was in town at the time (very significant since it was thought to mark the rapprochement of the two countries.) But party leaders were (and are) so paranoid about things getting out of hand that they ordered the strike anyway — knowing and not caring that the rest of the world was watching.

Deng had to call in the military from the countryside because of the very strong risk that local Beijing soldiers would refuse to fire upon their kin.

To this day nobody really knows how many people from all walks of life died in the streets.

Even 20 years after the fact, that’s some pretty tragic shit right there.


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