Chinese Media Ignore Tiananmen

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT


(CNS) – Readers of official Chinese media Friday would be hard put to find a single reference to the fact it is the tenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square clampdown, an event that cost an estimated 5,000 lives, and plunged Sino-West relations to their lowest point in decades.

The Beijing Daily made no mention of the anniversary. Its front page was dedicated to the restoration of Tiananmen Square – "a wonder of the world" – for the country's 50th anniversary celebrations planned for October 1.

The paper also reported prominently on a continuing program of demobilization of one million People's Liberation Army soldiers, while another article, on a series of ideological seminars being held in the capital, carried the headline "Beijing depends fully on the masses."

The Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, along with others, published editorials opining further on NATO's May 7 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, which triggered anti-U.S. protests in China.

It praised President Jiang Zemin's "quick, outright, correct and proper" handling of the bombing, saying he had won "extensive support" from the people.

On Thursday, the eve of the anniversary, the People's Daily published an editorial calling for "friendly cooperation with Western countries, including the United States." Previously, official media have accused the U.S. of stirring up the pro-democracy movement in 1989.

Another official paper, the China Youth Daily, all but ignored the Tiananmen issue. Its front page picture portrays construction on the massive Three Gorges Dam project.

China Daily, an English-language news service, also made no mention of the massacre, but the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, however, devoted extensive space to the anniversary.

It reported from Beijing that tight security had made it difficult for dissidents and families of victims of the clampdown to visit the square.

"State security personnel confiscated the pro-democracy petitions that several respected intellectuals and retired officials had tried to circulate among parliamentarians
and the Western media."

The Hong Kong daily cited "a source close to the dissident community" as saying the regime had benefited from anti-U.S. protests following the Belgrade bombing, as they had diverted public attention from the administration's failings.

However, it also quoted Zha Jianguo, a leader of the banned China Democracy Party, as saying the people's desire for democracy had increased.

It is not known exactly how many people died when the government sent tanks and troops into the square to end protests by students and others on June 3-4, 1989. They were calling for democracy, freedom of expression and an end to corruption.

The authorities, who declared martial law shortly before the massacre, said the demonstrations were a foreign-inspired "counter-revolutionary riot."

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow

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