While the June 4th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown goes largely unremarked on the Chinese mainland, the people of Hong Kong turn out every year in huge numbers for a candelight vigil in Victoria Park (see a report of this year's event in the South China Morning Post). Far from fading in the memory, the public response seems to have been getting stronger in recent years, with Monday's crowd being the biggest ever - organisers estimate that around 180,000 people took part. [Here's a video report on this year's vigil.]
Fang Zheng, one of the most famous victims of the Beijing crackdown (his legs were torn off when he was run down by a tank on Chang'an Avenue, not far from the Party leaders' residences at Zhongnanhai - an incident that Deng Xiaoping always sought to deny), was among those in attendance this year.
There was also an excellent article in The Washington Post yesterday - by He Xiaoqing, a Chinese history lecturer at Harvard who specialises in studies of the Tiananmen crackdown and its aftermath - about the work of Ding Zilin's Tiananmen Mothers group (here's a link to their Chinese website; or you can register your support for their efforts here), which concludes with the observation:
The moment a government orders its army to fire on its own people, it loses its legitimacy; when a regime tells its people that human lives and human rights, human dignity and human decency can be “sacrificed” for the sake of higher goals such as national pride and economic development, it sends the message that any principle can be compromised for the ideals of “get rich” and “rising.” Such mentality has become the root of major social and political problems in the post-Tiananmen China.
[I also just turned up this fine essay from the Tiananmen Mothers, first published a couple of years ago, and still available on the Human Rights in China website. This year's message from the group, also on that site, laments the sorry lack of progress towards acknowledgement and redress of the crimes of June 4th over the last decade, but notes rumours that Wen Jiabao - the only member of the current leadership who seems to be sincerely an advocate of reform - has in the past year again been arguing behind closed doors for such an initiative. In the current climate of insecurity, I can't see him making any progress to that end. Indeed, my gut feeling is that it will probably take another decade or two - if it happens at all. But we must all keep lobbying for it. For me, the issue is not so much about showing respect for the victims and their families, but about whether you can found the future progress of the nation on LIES. The continuing cover-up on Tiananmen is shackling China's development - it has got to STOP one day.]