Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 have been one of the darkest incidents in the history of People’s Republic of China. During that period, the democracy was being proposed by the leaders and the public all over the world and that subsequently led to the fall of the mighty USSR. The communist government in China was getting vary of the situation and was trying to curb any uprisings in its own country that might lead to political destabilization. But a leader named Hu Yaobang was leading the revolution to bring democracy in the land and he was supported by thousands of students and intellects across China. But Hu’s death in mysterious circumstances on 15th April 1989 led his followers to march a peaceful protest in Beijing. Students from all parts of China gathered at different places in China, including Shanghai to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang and to pass the message on to the government of China to move to democratic form of governance. The protests went on for about seven weeks and the students were joined by intellects, farmers and workers — but all in a peaceful manner. But since the Chinese government saw it as a rebellion that could lead to a fall of power and fall of communism, they called in the army to curb the movement and disintegrate the protests. Unfortunately, the tanks were called upon by the army on June 4th to Tiananmen Square and were ordered to open fire on the protestors. According to some sources, more than 50,000 people were either killed or seriously injured in the military operation. Since then, the incident has been dubbed as Tiananmen Square Massacre or June Fourth Incident in China.
Whenever I discuss the incident of Tiananmen Square and see people criticizing China for the irresponsible behavior of its government, a question always bothers me — Is China the only country that has used power against its own citizens whom it should protect?
In 2006, Indian government had passed a law in the parliament that provided reservation in the premium education institutions to a certain sect/community from Indian society. The students, already facing a dearth of good educational institutes, were not ready to accept that and conducted peaceful protests against the government, all over India, led by the medical and engineering students. But the government of India wasn’t ready to listen to the demands of the students and acted in a very irresponsible manner. It ordered the police forces to use teargas and water cannons to disintegrate the protests in Delhi. These protests once again proved the unity of the students in India and the democratic dictatorship of political leaders in India.
Similarly, in 1969, when the students in the universities of US, including Cornell and Harvard, protested against the government of US, against the racial discrimination, nuclear weapons, destruction of environment and cuts in funding for education, they were met with arrest warrants and police forces that almost outnumbered the protesting students in many cases.
These and many more similar incidents in the history and the reactions of the respective governments bring us back to the point of discussion: whether China did the right thing to call in tanks to disintegrate the peaceful protests by students or is muscle power the only way that the governments across the world have, to curb the protests that threaten their existence?
The writer is a Singapore based correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz and holds special interest in Social Entrepreneurship.