How far would you go to keep a secret? To keep something hidden or below the radar for as long as you can and with whatever you can use. If we ask some very below-the-radar countries, like Russia or China, they’d say, as far as we have to. And to really find out how far, there isn’t a more infamous incident than the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the June Fourth Incident to really speak of what censorship actually inflicts.
The Gates of Heavenly Peace
Tiananmen Square, or ‘the gates of heavenly peace’ in its full glory, is one of the largest public squares in the world situated at the heart of Beijing, China. Ironically, the incidents that occurred there were far from it. Its history has been brought up with every protest and demonstration that has aimed to fight for freedom and rights in our society.
The true fear is that these bits and pieces may never really form the entire picture of what happened.
In 1989, this square became a ground for peaceful protests after the death of then communist party leader, Hu Yaobang, who had the vision to democratize the political system of China. Thousands of pro-democracy students, demanding freedom of speech and liberalization policies, flooded the square to put forward a collective message. This garnered enormous levels of attention globally from journalists and news companies. To this, China retorted by imposing a martial law restricting media reporters from publicizing the protests any longer.
Despite this, protests continued, and the media reported images and short briefs about the events unfolding at the square leading up to the horrendous evening of June 4th. On orders of the People’s Liberation Army, hordes of tanks and soldiers barged into the square and open-fired on countless peaceful protestors. To date, the details of those days and the ensuing tragedies have yet to unfold completely, and the true fear is that these bits and pieces may never really form the entire picture of what happened.
The Best Kept Secret
Despite the relentless effort of the government on curbing media coverage, reports and images of the supervening events were still being transmitted worldwide for days and months to come. One of the most well-known and popularized symbols of those protests was a grainy image of a man standing in front of three heavy tanks encompassed in a single shot from a distance. Aptly titled ‘Tank Man’, this image became one of the leading few media that involved major mass media following across the globe despite China’s efforts at keeping things mum.
This shot shows us the intensity and level of force that was dispatched after the government had removed all probabilities of media coverage of the following events completely. Media images and journalist reports have further helped in creating a clearer image for the world in explaining what occurred exactly on that disdainful day; however, for China, the tight reign of censorship has only made things blurrier for the people who once were the center of this entire massacre.
Many teens today living within China don’t have a clue as to what the real purpose of those protests was, what the lives of those lost really signified, and even whether the protests ever happened at all.
So many years later, there is still almost no trace of what broadly occurred that day within the borders of China. The efforts to censor posts on social media, texts and chapters in textbooks and virtually any platform that deals with communicating information are astounding. Many teens today living within China don’t have a clue as to what the real purpose of those protests was, what the lives of those lost really signified, and even whether the protests ever happened at all. Most of all, it only creates ignorance around the tyrannous sovereignty of a political body that was more willing to sacrifice its people than listen to what they were trying to say.
Censorship has become more and more vigilant and resilient as the reign of modern technology rages on with development. China too, has made its own rules in monitoring and filtering what exactly goes up and within the web of information in their country. Their state-of-the-art firewall wipes almost any mention of the Tiananmen Square protests or anything remotely even related to the incident at all.
A Tribute to the Fallen
This year marked the 31st anniversary of the protests and the disastrous events that followed. While any open demonstrations or marches in remembrance of the people who lost their lives that day are forbidden in China, the people of Hong Kong still hold a candle march for those sacrificed. This year, however, under the effect of pandemic measures, this vigil came to a standstill. Although the situations we face today did not allow for a march dedicated to the victims of the protests, it isn’t a stretch to say that those who do know the truth behind what lies alongside the name of Tiananmen Square, have kept those people in their hearts and prayers.
Stories of what occurred on the days of June 3rd and 4th shouldn’t be forgotten for its disturbing events but rather remembered for the bravery and courage of those who stood up for their rights and freedom. To all those who lived through this experience, and to those who didn’t, it is a hope that someday the cause for which they fought for would come to its realization, and more importantly give justice to the tragedy we call the ‘Tiananmen Square Massacre’.
Cover: Zachary Keimig