You won’t read this in China where the 1989 massacre of student protesters simply didn’t happen. It has been erased from history and from the memories of the Chinese population.
The Tiananmen Square massacre, infamous around the world is a blank page in the country where it took place. Last year the BBC reported newly released Foreign Office documents asserting that at least 10,000 people died in those pro-democracy protests.
Previous estimates had ranged from several hundred to more than a thousand. Still the ruling Communist Party of China dictates that it never happened and if that’s what the CCP says then in China at least you better believe it.
Never has George Orwell’s dictum in his frightening novel 1984 been so prophetic; “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.”
Decades ago Prime Minister Bob Hawke wept during an emotional speech to the Australian Parliament. He described the actions of the pro-democracy students as “acts of indescribable bravery.”
Certainly there were none braver than “Tank Man” the global nickname of an unknown Chinese youth who on June 5, 1989 stood in front of an encroaching column of Red Army tanks.Whatever happened to him?Tank Man became the icon of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Picture: AAP
The video and photographs were seen worldwide and never forgotten, perhaps not even in China where it is forbidden to remember. After the event a shaken Australian Prime Minister declared, “To crush the spirit and body of youth is to crush the very future of China itself.”
That was a less accurate prophecy than Orwell’s thoughts on the relativity of history. Despite what Hawke said quarter of a century ago, China continues to go from strength to strength economically, militarily and diplomatically.
In fact revisiting those awful events years later, Hawke recognised the dragon in the room was our heavy economic reliance on the relationship with China.
Just like the rest of Australia, the former PM hedged his bets, “That doesn’t mean you shut your mind to the moral issues, but we would be in God’s most awful mess if we didn’t have the relationship,” he told the National Press Club.The events which took place here 25 years ago are not spoken about today. Picture: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images
The Chinese aren’t fools. They know that we are a nation which, morally at least, wants to have its cake and eat it too. We might demonstrate a degree of ethical posturing concerning human rights but in the end we will always take the money.
How apposite this week then that our flagship airline Qantas acceded to Chinese demands to recognise that ‘Taiwan China’ isn’t really an independent nation but is in fact a part of the People’s Republic of China.
Landing rights now assured, Qantas hopes the Taiwanese will understand that it’s just business and nothing personal.
Of course the Communist Chinese well know that our yen for the yuan will always over-rule our more highfalutin impulses.Beijing is full of history but certain events aren’t marked or spoken about.
Marxists have no illusions about the real priorities of Capitalists. As Karl Marx so presciently put it, “The Capitalist will sell us the rope with which we shall hang him.”
Bob Hawke’s recognition of the “awful mess” we would be in without China is a bi-partisan view in Australian politics, at least until it isn’t.
It’s an ad hoc policy we are making up as we go. Caught in a fierce tug of war between the USA and China perhaps we need to find some new friends with whom our consciences would be clearer.
Democracies like India perhaps and Indonesia? Meanwhile on this anniversary of the terrible events of Tiananmen Square 25 years ago let us hope that Australian politicians of all stripes refrain from humbug and unctuous proclamations about human rights and democracy. Which do you prefer, the Chinese solution of total amnesia or good old Australian hypocrisy? Not much of a choice, but it seems all we’ve got.
By Charles Wooley