With the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan rebellion of 1959 still fresh in the memory, Beijing now has to confront the 20th anniversary of the student-led democracy movement that was crushed in Tiananmen Square.
The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has taken all the necessary steps to prevent — and crush, if necessary — any protests that might take place next week.
In 1989, students seeking political reforms were met with tanks as the regime feared being toppled by a ragtag movement seeking a more open political system with transparency and accountability.
That system was, and still is, racked with corruption.
Was there any serious danger to the CCP from the student movement? Then-CCP general secretary Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽) didn’t think so and was toppled by the ruling clique led by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平).
In secret tapes recorded by Zhao during his 16 years in house arrest until his death, he raised some pertinent questions.
“It was determined [by the leading CCP group] that the student movement was a planned conspiracy of anti-party, anti-socialist elements with leadership,” Zhao said.
“So now we must ask, who were these leaders? What was the plan? What was the conspiracy? What evidence exists to support this?” he wrote. “It was also said that that there were black hands within the party. Who were they?”
“It was said that this event was aimed at overthrowing the People’s Republic and the CCP. Where is the evidence?” Zhao said.
His conclusion was that there were no such elements conspiring to overthrow the CCP.
“I had said at the time that most people were only asking us to correct our flaws, not attempting to overthrow our political system,” he said.
One might think that having crushed the last perceived organized threat to its monopoly on power, the CCP would feel at ease. But the paranoia persists.
The system remains alert to any organized sign of resistance that might emerge.
After all, the Falun Gong movement emerged out of nowhere and managed to hold a large public protest in 1999. Soon afterwards, the movement was banned and declared an evil cult, with thousands of followers arrested and tortured.
The persecution continues.
Falun Gong was never a threat to the CCP’s rule. But overkill is still the mark of the ruling oligarchy.
The fact is that China’s rulers do not want to take any chances with unruly masses, believing they need the perpetual control and guidance of the CCP to prevent the country from plunging into chaos.
This is the CCP’s self-serving mythology that has been parroted ever since. In the absence of any kind of popular endorsement of its rule, the CCP has had to create the illusion of impending disaster if the party is not around.
This makes the party and the country indistinguishable. In other words, a Chinese citizen ceases to be “patriotic” if he or she seeks political change.
If a group meets regularly to talk of democracy as a political alternative for the country, soon enough its members will find themselves behind bars.
Zhao, though, favored the democratic alternative. He reportedly said that: “It is the Western parliamentary system that has demonstrated the most vitality … [and] meets the demands of a modern society.”
But the CCP is unlikely to follow this route to commit political suicide. Indeed, it actively works to destroy any challenge (real or imagined) to its political monopoly.