Thirty-five years later, there is still no memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China

Thirty-five years later, there is still no memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China

On June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party ordered its army to fire on thousands of young demonstrators gathered in Tiananmen Square. Thirty-five years later, the memory of this massacre has been erased in China and is struggling to survive elsewhere.


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Thirty-five years after the Tiananmen Square massacre, its memory still lingers abroad.  Illustrative image.  (Anthony Wallace/AFP)

The protests began on April 15, 1989, in China, when thousands of young people stormed Tiananmen Square to protest corruption and demand political and democratic reforms. On June 4 of the same year, the Chinese government signed the end of the movement by ordering the army to fire on the demonstrators: there are no official figures, but the number of victims is estimated at several thousand, most of them students. Today, 35 years later, this memory is being recalled abroad with a gathering organized on Monday 4 June in Paris.

One thing is certain, the memory of Tiananmen Square does not live on in China. For the authorities, the massacre never happened, many Chinese do not even know it, and for those who witnessed it, there is silence. “People who were not born at that time certainly did not know from their parents that there was a demonstration because the parents knew that if they told their children about it, they risked making them dissidents.”“, explains sinologist Marie Holzman.

The memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which does not exist in China, is also fading among Hong Kong residents, who have commemorated it every year since 1989: “They were the ones who preserved the memory of Tiananmen, Mary Holzman continues. “They were the ones who gathered in Victoria Park in the tens of thousands, with all the enthusiasm.”

Memory is weak, even among Westerners who prove unreliable when it comes to talking about the massacre. According to the specialist, “From time to time, they get contracts with China.” The mention of Tiananmen is then returned to “later”.

Memory of the massacre seems impossible. However, its shadow still looms over Chinese leaders. They trembled again two years ago when Chinese youth, emerging from Covid and protesting against authority, took to the streets waving white sheets.

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