China’s War against history: Wiping away the massacre in Tiananmen Square

*Note: some of the descriptions in this article may be disturbing to some readers.

It took only one day, and one image, to scar the Chinese public and the world at large for decades to come. Even today, as the global community finds itself marking the 30th anniversary of that moment in history, the image retains its strength and poignancy:  
A young man, standing in front of a line of army tanks. Courageous, iconic—beautifully defiant.  
The Tiananmen Square Tank Man was part of the pro-democracy protests in Beijing that turned violent on June 4th and 5th of 1989. Government forces brutally assassinated thousands of people—some estimates reaching as high as at least ten thousand—and mostly young students. Though the world learned of the protests and ensuing carnage on the 4th and 5th of June, the demonstrations had begun weeks before. As early as the beginning of May, students had been occupying Tiananmen Square to vocalise their disapproval of China’s sweeping initiatives to limit political freedoms. Also at issue with the protestors was the monopoly of the Communist Party (CCP) on China’s one-party government system.
Democracy-hungry and demanding free speech and free press, the protests garnered the support of some government officials. Others opposed the demonstrations, believing them to be a direct affront to the CCP’s political and social control. The pro-democracy movement continued to gain traction in Beijing over the coming weeks. With the disruption of a planned visit by then-Soviet Union Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, the Chinese government decided something must be done. In late May, martial law was declared and 250,000 troops were set upon the city.
The presence of government forces initially achieved very little in the way of suppressing the protestors. Then, early in the morning on June 4, violence erupted. Soldiers and police stormed the crowds gathered in Tiananmen Square, firing indiscriminately into the masses. Some people tried to run away, others fought back by throwing stones or setting military vehicles on fire.
Some reports claimed that after being told they had one hour to vacate the premises, students stood and linked arms against the advancing forces—but to no avail.
Soldiers in their tanks and other armed vehicles simply plowed right over the students, back and forth, and then back and forth again. The trampled remains were later scraped off the pavement and scooped up with construction equipment, leaving no trace of the Chinese state’s mass murder in the square.
Thousands of innocent people murdered for what the Chinese state reportedly referred to as “anti-government” criminal activity demanding punishment. The so-called “crime” of the slaughtered innocents? Exercising their human right to express their opinions in a peaceful manner, and calling for a government of, by, and for the people.
As the world approaches June 4, 2019, a whole thirty years after the Chinese government’s massacre of its own people, not much has changed for Chinese citizens in terms of civil freedoms.

Censoring the whole of life
Religious and political freedom of thought, practice, and speech in China is prohibited. Tens of thousands of Uyghur Muslims have been detained, interrogated, forced into “routine health check-ups” that provide the state with their DNA, and rounded up and corralled into internment-style “re-education” camps in China’s Xinjiang province, like cattle being led to slaughter. Their crime? Being a minority group, especially one whose god is Allah—not the CCP.
Across the globe, human rights organisations have highlighted the Chinese government’s systematic oppression of the Uyghurs and other Muslims, Tibetans, house church Christians, and other religious minorities in China. It is dangerous to belong to these forbidden faith groups. In fact, it is dangerous to belong to any group outside of the CCP, especially one seeking any semblance of civil rights protections for a diverse public.
Government-sponsored censorship in China is at an all-time high. Artificial intelligence (AI) has only heightened the ability of the Chinese state to monitor and suppress information as it sees fit. Under the influence of President Xi Jinping, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has been encouraged to ramp up its censorship tech, enabling what has been referred to as “increasingly strict ideological control of the internet.”
Since the days immediately following the Tiananmen Square Massacre, any mention of the events that day in media or other public communications is explicitly forbidden. But the censorship is not limited to the 1989 protest-turned-massacre.

Find and destroy
Sources from inside the Chinese government allege that fine-tuned intelligence bots and online “learning tools” have assumed what used to be the task of the human “censors”—the employees of several Chinese internet companies whose entire jobs centred around their ability to find and destroy any online content deemed “forbidden” by the government. In an interview with Reuters, one censor (content scanning employee) stated that these groups of employees “…sometimes say that artificial intelligence is a scalpel, and a human is a machete.” Software employed by the monitoring agencies is able to identify images, mentions, dates, and names associated with Tiananmen Square or any other pro-democracy, anti-CCP, “forbidden” content. Once the content has been pinpointed, it can be flagged and blocked—or completely erased.
In effect, AI has increased the capability of the Chinese surveillance apparatus tenfold. And it is China’s citizens who are suffering at its hands.
With a host of foreign governments entangled in CCP politics through trade preference schemes—or trade preference dreams, as China’s global power grows—little has been done to secure a human rights-forward agenda for the Chinese public. Some steps have been taken to publicly decry the actions of the Chinese state. Conferences have been held, dialogues have been had. Suggestions have been offered and social and press awareness has been mobilised.

But this is not enough.
It is simply not enough to publicly decry the actions of the Chinese state when millions of people within its reach are continuously robbed of their human right to remember: who their ancestors were, who they are today, where they have come from, and what that history requires and asks of them now.
The freedom to speak, report, believe, and assemble as anyone so chooses is a fundamental human right. It is unacceptable for the global community to pass by this June 4th—the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre—without acknowledging that continued silence and inaction only fuels the anti-freedom monster that is the Chinese government in its gross violation of the most basic rights available to the human race.

Source :