Anniversaries, Apathy, and Annoyance

I. Ground Rules

1. This will be an essay format, with few links, which would only serve to get me in trouble.

2. My language might be a tad bit crude. Do not allow young children to read, or if you do, please sit with them and explain what all the swear words mean so they can follow my rant dutifully.

3. There will be no images of the events of 21 years ago. You never know who might be looking at this stuff. Given the recent troubles experienced by china/divide, I figured I should play it a bit safe.

4. Please finish reading the entire post before sending in your profanity-laced comments. I’m not guaranteeing that you will change your mind by the time you finish reading, but since I’m taking the time to rant, the least you can do is peruse the whole thing.

II. Something Happened in Beijing a Few Years Ago

With that out of the way, let’s turn to the news of the day. From the stuff in my Inbox, it appears as though many folks are commemorating some sort of anniversary that occurred a few years back, perhaps in the neighborhood of 21 years ago.

I’m going off of third party sources here since I wasn’t anywhere near Beijing at the time. I didn’t arrive until late 1998. Come to think of it, a lot of the people that seem to be so emotionally attached to this particular anniversary were not living in Beijing back then either. I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I have difficulty getting emotional about events that took place a long time ago, in places I wasn’t living at the time, that involve people I didn’t know, and have to do with issues I don’t really care about.

But that’s just me. I have difficulty getting emotional about a lot of other things, too. This might explain why those two doctors from the New England Journal of Medicine contacted me 15 years ago about that study of sociopathy. I never did write them back — didn’t give a shit.

So I’m looking at this with a great deal of detachment, pretty much the same level of feeling I get when I think about the 9/11 attacks: I would rather these things not have happened, but beyond that, it’s just another loss of life that doesn’t effect me personally. More people die in auto accidents every year, or from heart disease or Hep-B.

Have I sufficiently established my credentials as an insufferable bastard? I think we can move on.

III. Peering Through the Tian An Door

At the risk of getting into a long discussion of what exactly happened 21 years ago, I still find it odd that most written accounts focus almost completely on a widespread political struggle that supposedly existed. With the exception of a limited number of students (whose numbers dwindled significantly as time wore on — probably out of justifiable fear), I’ve yet to read a credible account of a serious political struggle that was going on at the time.

What do I mean by “serious political struggle”? Well, first of all, this was not an organized movement that included a significant portion of the population. Yeah, I know, neither were the Bolsheviks in 1917. Good point, but those guys were hard core, just ask Kerensky. As idealistic as these students were, they don’t belong in the same category as Lenin and his comrades.1

Second, I don’t really see any struggle going on. There was a protracted protest, and those sorts of things can definitely lead to political turmoil, but a real struggle takes a lot more time and involves an actual plan. No overarching strategic maneuvering going on 21 years ago.

Third, a lot of the activity had nothing to do with politics. Sure, there were definitely a lot of pissed off people running around and, eventually, getting smacked around by the imported defense forces. By and large, though, a poor economy (specifically a high rate of inflation) was the reason for the majority of the discontent, not political ideology. Lots of folks will quarrel with that interpretation, I’m sure, but that’s what I was taught in school.

And yet all these retrospectives make it look like Danton and Robespierre were running around Beijing fighting against the Ancien Régime. I do believe that some folks have selective memories.

IV. Depends on Who You Ask

Sometimes my usual apathy crosses over into actual annoyance. This is surprising insofar as I usually don’t give a shit (see above). However, I think my reasons are justifiable.

I tend to get pissed off on a category basis, depending of who is doing the talking. To wit:

1. Foreigners who were in Beijing back in the day that give “first-hand accounts.” I will cut these guys some slack if they confine their comments to what they saw first hand, or if they happened to have other direct knowledge of what was going on. That’s just fine and dandy.

Unfortunately, a lot of expats who just happened to find themselves in the city when the shit hit the fan seem to think that they are experts on the subject.


Just because I was living in LA in 1992, this doesn’t make me an expert on the sociopolitical underpinnings of the Rodney King riots. CNN did not go out and find middle-class white kids (e.g. me) for television interviews. And yet they do the exact same thing with any American expat who was in China during the “troubles,” whether they were hiding in their hotel room or out on the street.

Annoying, yes? To recap: “The General Manager of the factory I was visiting died in my arms on a street corner after being shot through the throat” — acceptable; but “Not that I was involved, but this was the greatest political struggle since Gandhi” — not acceptable.

2. Professional activists. I sympathize with anyone who gets shot at (or is shot, for that matter), loses a friend, or is otherwise traumatized. As the proud holder of a degree in history, I also appreciate it when individuals with firsthand knowledge of historical events document their experience.

That being said, many people have taken their experiences of 21 years ago and turned them into careers — this pisses me off. Whenever the U.S. Congress schedules one of their periodic hearings about China’s dirty deeds, some Congressional staffer consults his Rolodex (sorry, I’m dating myself here) and calls up one of these professional activists who dredges up the same old stories in an attempt to tarnish the image of the current occupants of Zhongnanhai. They love ‘em on Capitol Hill.

Many of them have ulterior motives as well: pushing books they’ve written, seeking tenure at a university or a position at a think tank, proselytizing for Jesus, or simply being as large an irritant to the Chinese government as possible. I don’t need any of it, thank you very much.

3. Expats or offshore foreigners with really strong opinions. If someone knows what they are talking about, that’s fine. However, 99% of the folks over here (I’m in Boston at the moment) have no clue and say really stupid things about what happened in Beijing. Most of them know that something occurred in Beijing, it was bad, it involved a tank, it was televised for a while (and therefore important), and the people getting shot at were heroes. Again, these people should go away and piss off at their leisure.

4. Chinese nationals who were not involved 21 years ago or were too young. This is pretty much the only group of people with which I have no beef, probably because they have no opinion on the subject all. As time goes on, and the educational system does its magic, the usual response to the question “What do you think about what happened 21 years ago?” is “Huh?”

All right, I think I’ve sufficiently upset as many people as possible, so time to wrap this up. Am I taking life and death events too lightly? Indeed I am. Everyone else does too, and we’re all selective about it. Why should we be particularly outraged by this act of violence by a government and not, for example, give a flying *#)% about drone attacks in Afghanistan or wars of aggression?

However you all want to justify your selective outrage is fine with me. Speaking for myself (of course), I will be sitting out this particular anniversary, awaiting something more relevant.

  1. My favorite of Lenin’s buddies is of course Yakov Sverdlov, sometimes referred to as the first head of state of the Soviet Union. I am one quarter Sverdlov (on my mother’s side), and Yakov is a direct family relation from the old country. []


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  1. I. Ground Rules

    5. I am a spineless imbecile living under the jackboots of evil Chinamen who has such little self respect that he feels the need to apologise for his cowardice in advance.

    • bai ren

      hey sexy
      dont agree with your ad hominum language, and usualy not your points either… but in this instance one has got to wonder.
      to not be emotional is one thing, to view the protest in isolation of the movement and changes it symbolizes is a whole other

      • “ad hominum”

        I might not have bothered to learn Latin but I do know that one’s reputation is usually directly indicative of their credibility. For example, I wouldn’t ask Hitler if high grade Wagyu beef should in fact be cooked medium instead of rare as I usually like it, after all Hitler didn’t fucking eat meat, he was a fucking limp wristed vegetarian hippie, on top of that he killed a bunch of people or something like that, I don’t know the details but apparently that dude got involved with some pretty fucked up shit. If I can’t trust the most accomplished German statesman since Frederick The Great to advise me on how to cook a steak, how can I trust Stan Abrams to explain the tumultuous events of 1989?

        • I really wasn’t trying to explain the events of 1989, so please don’t “trust” me to do so. Make up your own mind. My point is not that I know more than others, but that a whole lot of folks out there have taken an event, romanticized it, played up their individual involvement, and now use it for propaganda and/or self-serving purposes. I don’t like that sort of thing, but others seem comfortable with it as a justifiable means to a specific political end.

        • bai ren

          yes, dont ask hitler how to make a steak because he is a vegetarian. this is a correct form of argument. however if the issue is you are lambasting hilter talking about cooking steak and calling him a vegetarian, then explain how he is a vegetarian and how this discredits his opinion. dont go around emoting that he is such and therefore cant say anything.
          Appologise for using the latin, but your form of argument does not add to a rational debate, or help to influence discussion on the topic. I commented because I found that this type of opinion could be adressed, but should be done critically and not with fallacious arguments.
          Come on sexy lets not fight, lets investigate

  2. lulu

    I was here in China and later watched from a position in the UN. As a “non authority” I spend a considerable time trying to research topics and investigate through research, eye accounts and verifiable documents. I don’t criticize others opinions – I weigh them against the evidence. I don’t ignore history just because I wasn’t there or its not “my priority”. We learn from history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes we’ve made before. If this is difficult there is an old Chinese saying “When you have no value to add, engage brain and turn off mouth”

    • hm

      Just because we study history doesn’t mean we will always learn from it. Did the US think about history before making a war with Iraq? Think not.

    • I don’t think that your measured response is indicative of the kind of statements that send me over the edge.

      I would take issue with the suggestion that I am ignoring history. I think I’ve sufficiently acknowledged that this was a major event that deserves attention. My beef is with how certain people talk about the event and use it for specific ends – the historiography of the event, perhaps.

      One disagreement I have is not that I want to ignore 1989, I just do not find it to be the glorious, ground breaking political event that others do. Obviously that bothers some people.

      • Jones

        I don’t see how the idea of the government sending in federal troops who ended up shooting a lot of unarmed civilians…even brought in the completely unnecessary gaggle of tanks…is not political? That’s really fucking political. Especially when a lot of people stay behind to continue resisting them regardless of the fact that they have nothing to defend themselves with against a heavily-armed mechanized unit. That’s very political, otherwise Beijing wouldn’t really do so much to hide it in fear of it messing up their rule. Maybe it started out as middle-class students talking about a student union and some others joining in about whatever else they were upset about…but it turned into, and still is, a very political struggle.

        • pug_ster

          If you change the word from Beijing to Washington, you get the Bonus March of 1932. The last I checked, it was not on some High School History Textbook and I don’t recall when was the last time where there was an organized protest against the government about this incident.

          • Jones

            Yes, except…the amount of life lost, the fact that I can see it on the internet if I simply type it in a search site…any search site…without aid of a proxy or my internet cutting off for little bit. As in total access and no government hiding it. An even bigger difference is the fact that I learned about the Bonus Army in high school history class. Washington isn’t making an effort at all to hide it, is what I’m saying.

          • bai ren

            maybe you learnt about this in highschool, but lets shee what the next generation of students in texas (not sure where you are) learn about. history is selectively taught, properly so because there is so much and we want particular lessons learned. however many important lessons are falling by the wayside. liberalism is lossing the battle to single narritive, at least in texas’ democractically elected school council.
            I think many of our countries have ‘conviently forgotten’ many incidents which challange the legitimacy of our governments. we remember and keep bringing up 6-4 so that it isnt conviently forgotten

  3. hm

    Very well put. I agree that the protest was not politically motivated.
    Students there represented people who were well off, or better off than the rest of the population, correct me if I’m wrong. Most of these students also came from cities.
    Tired of people using June 4 as another reason to push w/e agenda they have against China. China then is not the China today.

    • bai ren

      Yes of course, the middle class rarely has a role in the domocratization of countries.

      Also Chinese netizens surely do not (as Yang Guobin and Yuezhi Zhao have documented and effectively argued) try to mediate social and political relations between urbanites and rural residents…. netizens who today represent a similar demographic to the 1989 protesters who used social media in the form of faxs to organize the protest.

      Surely we should not decive ourselves that political issues often begin as ideas fostered by university professors and often taken up by their students.

      Of course the political issue which this MIGHT have been about was the urban-rural divide and not about broader public participation in the political system.


      If I critique the American government and its social welfare or foreign policy agendas I am not being anti american, I am engaging in a debate over how the system works compared to how it portrays itself and the legitimacy its processes of legitimate action operate.
      If I critique what happened in China on this day and its continuing presence in the nation I am not being anti Chinese either. Rather I am Anti-Elite-monopolizing-violence-to-repress.

    • Jones

      Like Japan is not the Japan it was in the 30s/40s, yet people still are going on about them needing to admit to it and apologize, and change their educational material to reflect their wrong-doing…but Japan then is not the Japan today.

      • bai ren

        Oh jones I am but a fool. Is that scarcasm in your voice that I detect, or do you not connect the socialization process of education and the importance of memory in identitty though the teaching of history.

        • Jones

          Indeed sarcasm. I was just pointing out the hypocrisy in the Chinese government and populace, and anyone else who will say that Japan should admit it’s past war crimes, apologize, teach about it in their history classes, etc…but then brush off the idea of Beijing apologizing for any of the god-knows-how-many people (their own) that they’ve killed.

          Somehow I managed to post this way the hell up here instead of on pug_ster’s comment way the hell down THERE. Sorry about that.

  4. Well, I can understand your annoyance with people who have got no clue what they’re talking about or who’ve turned being an activist into a career.
    It still doesn’t make the events of 89 unimportant or irrelevant, obviously the bosses in Zhongnanhai believe them to be both. Why else would there be so much security and censorship around the big date? It’s not expat rage they worry about.

    To my understanding (and I don’t pretend to know all about it. I wasn’t there), to conclude that the protests were not politically motivated is a bit inaccurate: There were many, sometimes contradictory, motives. Some of them were political. small Pro-democracy protests were going on in Bj and elsewhere for at least 10 years before 89.

    You kinda trew the baby out with the bathwater here.

  5. bai ren

    1. wasnt there
    2. chinese teacher who was working at the foreign language school in beijing at the time related to our class how one of her male coworkers walked home that night and had to go through that neighbourhood. He was killed in such a manner that he could only be identified by his belongings.
    3. have a contact in china who was but a young child at the time. While a middle school student around ten years ago he was annualy instructed not to go out on that day with groups of friends. Has told me that groups as small as 4 or 5 people will be questioned by police on this day up to this year (no first hand experiance, only the word of a relitively satisfied chinese who sees no problem with the gov keeping an eye on social stability)
    4. have a chinese classmate from beijing who has told me that it is tacky to comment on this publically on facebook
    5. NOT POLITICAL WTF??? This protest was the accumulation of months of intellectual and university based criticism and discussion. In the week leading up one of the student leaders managed to secure a televised debate with one of the top leaders (I dont have my ref material here to say whom), in which his challanges were political. Following the crack down on the protest intellectual discussion on politics irrevicable changed in China. Liberalism became a bad word and the new left and south conservitive movements, amung others began.

    I dont feel particularly emotional about the issue, i am an academic more than I am an activist. However this event was a major landmark in political participation and debate in China. It is still consitered highly sensitive by the government which boosts its security at this time and thereby does not exist in the distant past but remains an open wound that has not yet been dealt with and scarred over.

    NOT political? Come on. Students and workers were in the square together. Students restricted the workers to a small area as they felt they (as I have read) did not feel the workers articulate enough to participate.
    Limited? Sure there was a spectrum of personal involvement across the country and even those at the protest (i have personally been to a few protests in country and I have seen that many of a crowd are mere onlookers) but this certianly wasnt limited to radicals in beijing.

    enough of my rant… but once again, not political?! WTF!

    • bai ren

      correction on #3 contact in beijing. other areas appear rather indifferent besides on the issue of censorship

    • Stan wrote:

      I still find it odd that most writ­ten accounts focus almost com­pletely on a wide­spread polit­i­cal strug­gle that sup­pos­edly existed.

      Emphasis mine, and I think that’s the key to his point. Of course, people have different definitions of “widespread” so…

      • Thanks, Kai. Yes, that was my (too subtle?) point. One can disagree, but the political protesters, who were of course there and motivated by quite an idealistic agenda, were probably in the minority, with the general public making noise in large numbers because of economic conditions.

        I know that a high inflation rate is not a sexy topic, and it therefore often goes unmentioned in narratives of the time, but that’s what I’ve read from both economists and other scholars.

        Let’s face it: most folks don’t care so much about politics as they do about the price of food. And that was a serious problem in 1989. To describe the entire event as a political groundswell is, in my opinion, inaccurate.

        Moreover, it is fairly common knowledge that the memories of 1989 still influence the government’s economic decision making, particularly in the area of macroeconomic policy. Surging inflation makes a lot of folks panic — they understand the risk to stability.

        • bai ren

          Widespread political groudswell….
          your average Chinese citizen would not have been involved in this event in a personal way. agreed. Hoever the daily lives of citizens has in the way that dominate idologies have shaped the media, public discourse etc.

          This protest symbolizes a turning point as it cut off the infancy of public intellectual work in China. The ramifications of this can be aruged to be as wide spread in the continuing violence against out spoken people today such as with Tibetian public persons who speak about tibetian identity that goes outside of government norms.
          The crackdown on these protesters and the media restrictions after can continue to be seen in the governments continued control over the media through violence and coorsion. The neoliberal trend of the economy in relation to property prices was heavily debated in 2004. The traditional media did not pick up all sides of the debate, but rather the debate was waged between those allowed to comment in traditiaonal media and those who found support with netizens.

          This event is particularly important for an American mindset as freedom of speach is a major factor in their concept of political participation. (yea maybe not so much under scientific socialism). This is why there is so much emotion around the issue.

          Anyways tangent, yes? I am responding to the issue of how widespread the political implications around this protest were/are.

          high inflation was an issue at the time, and probably corrisponds with the worker/farmer sideline with this movement. But i do not know if they really should be consitered to factor into it so much as they were so heavily sidelined by the students.

          Not everyone in a society will go and get involved or really care about an issue such as political participation. but you can be damned sure that it effects their lives. the trajectory of political ideology allowed to be developed in universities and fostered by public policy makers effects ppls lifes though they might be unaware of it. This is the center of the widespread politics of the issue. This is why I highlighted the ideas side of the debate over the average person aspect

        • Stuffah

          Why isn’t inflation a political issue? If people are getting onto the streets to protest to the government about rising prices, that’s political action. If the government tries to keep inflation down, that’s also politics. So… I’m wondering if what you should say is not ‘politics’, but ‘ideology’- ie that only a small number of people were trying to realise an ideological political agenda, while most were simply unsatisfied with economic conditions and so wanted change on that basis.

          …but in that case, have any revolutions in world history ever been the result of a majority ‘political groundswell’? I’d say probably not

          • Stuffah

            ..and that most of the people involved in any popular revolution don’t have a detailed political agenda in mind, and are mainly hungry and angry.

          • If we want to say that any public protest is necessarily political, then sure, it was all political in 1989. Doesn’t really help the debate, but I’m happy to make a distinction between “ideological” and “political.”

            Many revolutions have been started because a lot of people were hungry and/or pissed off in general at the government (i.e., not ideological).

            But 1989 is celebrated specifically as an ideologically-driven event. To the extent that a lot of people who were involved that day were non-ideological, but rather driven to get out on the street for simple, economic reasons, I see that as taking a bit of the edge off the romantic story of a fight for democracy.

          • bai ren

            Whao… okay im not about to mince words between political participation and democrasy.
            (but to do so) Personally I think the democrasy spoken of this movement is too much western interpreted and would not have become what many people expect of it.
            Anyways the ‘nondieology’ of “I expect that i should be able to afford what I want to buy” is what?
            Is this ‘point of view’, or ‘motivation to moblize’, if not a ‘political economic ideology’ experianced by individuals at the grassroots level, what is behind current western political theorizing about what momentum a middle class in china adds to demands for greater political particiaption (or as they say democrasy)?
            This is lifestyle politics. Farmers and workers in china had over the previous decades gone through famins, rationing etc. if this was an economic issue from their stance, or society in general. then the question is what ideas lead them to interpret the social enviroment they were experianceing to want more? or at least not to loss more? or to not personally give to what their political leaders claimed to be for the good of the nation?
            daily economics are a powerful aspect of politics

  6. one of my teacher’s was there, he showed the class an awesome photo,

    “Li Peng Resign” big character poster, written on a bed sheet hanging outside a window at the ministry of foriegn affaris, bad-ass!

    Jan Wong, a canadian journalist who was there, said “it was like Woodstock!”

    damn…. I wish I could have been there, with flowers in my hair!

    – still reading up on Li Peng’s diary that was just released, am a little skepitcal of this… anyone else?

    in the mean time

    get red,
    get real
    got 50c?

    • I think Phillip Cunningham’s remembrances of the incident are especially valuable. He is by no means anti-CCP and appeared for years on CCTV-9 as a commentator. I strongly recommend you have a look.

      Like September 11, TS remains an especially emotional issue for those who watched it unfold on television. I had just signed on for cable TV that year and remember watching in wonder as the crowds swelled, as soldiers and policemen sent in to break it up instead joined in. Whether it was stage-managed or insincere (obviously the student leaders were no angels) isn’t the issue, just as America’s past dealings with Bin Laden wasn’t the issues as we watched the WTC towers go up in flames and disintegrate. I’m referring only to human emotion and why the response to the incident is often drenched in emotion.

      Many Chinese commenters point to the Bonus March in the US as equivalent to the TSM, and argue, often vehemently, that it is hypocritical of us to dwell on the TSM and not the Bonus March. The reason, however, is simple: none of us feel that we were inside the Bonus March, living and breathing in the same space as the marchers. Throughought the Spring of 1989 we were, in effect, with the students. Whether the view the correspondents gave us was accurate or not isn’t the issue, as I am only referring to why TS resonates emotionally with so many people 21 years later. The indelible image of the Tank Man sealed it, giving us a hero, a David standing up to Goliath, and it remains one of the most vivid archetypal images of the 20th Century. It draws up incredibly deep emotions, and those who actually witnessed it as it occurred remember it in a way similar to their memories of 911. Whether he was or was not a hero doesn’t matter. The emotional impact he delivered is undeniable, and helps explain why TS tugs at people’s emotions so many years later.

      • lolz

        I think Cunningham is still being sued by Chai Ling, one of the 4 student leaders at the time for defamation. Basically Cunningham who was with Chai Ling at the time caught her saying that she hopes there would be tons of death to generate more attention and quoted her in his work. Chai Ling, who ended up marrying her boss at McKinsey Consulting went on to become a CEO herself. Her strategy is to bankrupt Cunningham through lawsuits. So Cunningham’s anger towards Chai Ling’s hypocrisy is understandable.

        Looking at the 4 student leaders today, they are all living rather nicely in the US. Two of them went on Wall Street and became CEOs I think. One of them does a lot of business with China. He was quoted saying something like its impossible not to do business with China. The ones who paid the ultimate price are the followers and the true believers who ended up going to jails or died at the time.

        Looking at Beijing today most of event is forgotten. Partly because of the censorship but mostly because people choose not to care. It’s like the Korean and Vietnam (soon to be Iraq and Afghanstan) war. Should we have the media talking about My Lai year after year on how it affected US war policies? Who wants to remember all of the atrocities happened at these places? And this is really the tragedy with China 22 years ago, these people died for nothing. Even the western media which has been extremely proactive to rehash this tragedy year after year for the last twenty something years has been light on the anniversary this year.

    • bai ren

      woodstock my ass the student in front of those tanks put his hand up, side stepped and side stepped to remin in front of the tank as a human barrier… he didnt rush up and put a flower in the mussle. now that would have been real flower power… quick to revisionist history

  7. Jones

    “So I’m looking at this with a great deal of detachment, pretty much the same level of feeling I get when I think about the 9/11 attacks: I would rather these things not have happened, but beyond that, it’s just another loss of life that doesn’t effect me personally. More people die in auto accidents every year, or from heart disease or Hep-B.”
    Yeah, I’m not so sure why you’d be so hasty to compare common causes of death (disease and auto-accidents) to massive organized loss of life? Terrorists kill off 2,000+ people all of a sudden, or a government shoots up a lot of it’s own people just because they were protesting for something? I mean, I realize you did the whole section covering what you seem to suggest is a psychological/sociological malfunction that renders you unable to feel. Like a thousand-yard stare, passive, stone-cold Terminator-faced Machiavellian sort of person, impervious to the suffering of people that are not in your field of view or related to you or anything you have particular interest in (because I think that’s what it’d take to not see the sadness in such a massive loss of life). You must be brushing off the really hardcore shit you must have done and seen back in LA.

    Now I do not feel a personal connection with these. I remember being shocked while watching 9/11 go on live while at school (senior year of high school), but I don’t feel like I personally was touched or affected at all. However, I am also not so callous to brush these incidents off as just another run-of-the-mill loss of life. I would think that someone who writes on historical subjects would take this seriously. Especially someone who’s article is 65% complaining about everyone else commenting on the topic.

    This article sounds a lot like teen angst. No no, more like a “China Hipster”. I’m coining that term. You know that type of person who considers themselves and expert (even if they outwardly deny such an idea) and gets irrationally upset if someone else has an opinion that differs from theirs, or is just naively misinformed on that subject. I don’t mean a normal anger. I mean a list-based regurgitation of teen angst-styled reasons as to why they can’t stand certain categories of people. Basically “if you didn’t suffer a close-proximity shotgun blast to the face on June 4th, 1989 while in Beijing, wearing a green shirt and blue jeans, etc etc…then you shut your mouth and don’t say shit about it cause YOU DON’T KNOW NOTHING”.

    • Being called a hipster is a low blow, particularly since I only have a vague idea what it means.

      I am being sincere, though, when I say that I felt little to no personal connection with 9/11 or similar incidents. That doesn’t mean I am in favor of ignoring them, but I do believe that the emotion, and all the television coverage, can skew memories and narratives in a big way, and not always for the better.

      • Stan, is there a better alternative? I would prefer that 911 and the TS incident be covered on television than not. All media see events through their own filters and you will never get pure objectivity. But knowing that all news coverage will in some ways skew memories and perhaps create false imprewssions, would you prefer there not be coverage?

        I would have to say, with all respect, that feeling no emotional connection to 911 is borderline bizarre. I mean, when thousands of your fellow citizens are murdered and it unfolds on television before your eyes, can you really not feel an emotional connection? When the Chinese look at photos of the Nanjing Massacre can they do so without feeling any emotional connection, zero? Stan, I find that truly hard to believe. In order to feel no emotional connection you must have set up some kind of wall, denying your own feelings. Because there is no way you could watch the mass murder on television and not feel at least some emotional connection to your fellow Americans being killed in the most barbaric way, live and in color. If not, then you have no emotional connection to humanity, and that’s not healthy.

        • Henry

          Richard, why do you think that, as American citizens, we should feel more of an emotional connection to fellow Americans than people of other countries? It seems you take nationalism as a taken for granted virtue, while I think that nationalism is often just another form of discrimination, like racism or sexism. A true “emotional connection to humanity” would allow one to feel equally moved no matter the citizenship of the person one sees suffering. Perhaps Stan withheld an emotional reaction to 9-11 because there was clearly an abundance of emotion at that time, and what was lacking was reason. Rather than think about why these attacks occurred and the best way to move on, people looked to their emotions and sought revenge.

          • Stan, o nationalist, but it is not uncommon to be especially upset when people from your community are hurt. I grew up in New York, making 911 even more “close” for me. Similarly, as a Jew, I have to admit, I feel strong emotions about the Holocaust. Is that bizarre? I would dare say it’s true for nearly every Jew. And I think that is true for most people. The Chinese will have – and should have – a more visceral reaction to the Nanjing Massacre than non-Chinese. This is not at all unusual. These are their people. We all have our communities. If I heard of a terrible attack in Beijing and another in Rio, I will immediately be more curious and upset by the Beijing attack because I feel that is also my community. I’ll wonder if any of my friends were hurt, and I’ll worry. Therre is a connection. This is why when a ferry boat with 600 people sinks in Bangladesh it gets a brief mention on page 4 of the New York Times, while the death of Americans in an overseas accident will get far more prominent coverage. What does it mean to be a citizen of any nation? It means you have some connection and mutual concerns. And we tend to empathize more with people with whom we are connected. If we do not feel connected to the people in our community or our nation, then why have communities and nations at all? Why should the Chinese feel an emotional connection about the Nanjing Massacre that’s stronger than, say, their reaction to the Armenian genocide? Because it was their people. Is this really difficult to grasp?

        • For me, the television effect makes it less real. I understand that many people have the opposite reaction. When I saw the towers fall on 9/11, it lacked solidity to me, it looked like a movie. I became less and less attached to the event as it was used by politicians for their own ends. Every time Giuliani utters “9/11″ I care just that much less. Not fair to the people that went through it, but that’s what happened with me.

          The spectacular nature of 9/11 aside, I also see it as just one incident that should have been dealt with as such (i.e. without over reacting), unlike the multiple incidents over the years perpetrated by folks like ETA, the IRA, the PLO — you get the idea. We Americans seem to be rather thin-skinned.

          As far as TV coverage in general is concerned, of course it’s better to have it. We should just be very aware of its effects. It was very troubling to see, for example, how embedded journalists were used by the U.S. military during the Iraq War (not to mention creative storytelling — remember Jessica Lynch?).

          My favorite anecdote is the Yugoslavian Embassy bombing in ’99. I was working down the street from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing when the “huge protest” that was shown on CNN occurred. There were a lot of people there, but the tight shots taken by the CNN cameraman (and the audio) made it look like all hell was breaking loose in Beijing. Extremely misleading as the whole incident was tightly controlled, limited to less than one city block, and was fairly quiet.

          • Typo. “I’m no nationalist.”

          • Stan, the media are imperfect and always will be. What you’re talking about are the intrinsic flaws of media coverage. I think the embedded reporters were necessary, and they reported some really ugly stuff that the military didn’t want us to know but which we should know. Jessica Lynch was not a product of bad journalism. As with Patr Tillman, the media were fed a series of outrageous lies by the military and they reported them. Luckily the media performed their own research and blasted the two stories to pieces. That is not an example of bad journalism but of a deceitful government.

            I think most people found that the live coverage of the twin towers collapsing made the incident more real, not less. But we all see things from our own perspective.

            And sorry, my last comment should have been directed at Henry, not you.

    • Jones

      By not “feeling personally touched or affected at all” I meant like, I wasn’t in New York, didn’t know anyone who was anywhere near the trade center, etc. Not that I didn’t feel anything while watching it all unfold on TV.

      • bai ren

        Fellow posters, are we missing something here? why does Stan feel it necessary to highlight that he is emotionally disconnected with the issues presented? Maybe because he wants to take a rational look at the presentation of facts and perspectives and feels emotion would bar him from such.
        Why are some of us so astounded that he doesn’t have strong emotional connections to these events? because the emotions we bare from them help to form our individual values and senses of identity?

        The question is how important are emotionos? without firey passion would kai be that much more boring to read? would he post at all? Without emotion over ill informed emoters would Stan have bothered with a post about this subject? why is stan more emotional about public idiots than about the use of violence in games of politics? Too much of a civil society guy maybe

        • By and large, emotion gets in the way of cogent analysis, alters our memories, and makes us resistant to new information. Take the emotion away from 1989, and we would be having a much different conversation.

          • bai ren

            emotions take us away from cogent analysis… this is an interesting argument. now this issue for many people is an ethical one (ethics can be argued to be little more than emoting). The ethics of using violence to repress in broad daylight etc.
            But if we are not to say that it is an ethical issue, maybe we want to discuss our normative claims on the topic of discussing events such as this. from where do our normative claims come from- those odd things which influence our perspective and opinions? might they not be emotionally derived too?
            emotions when put at the forefront and not explained and consitered do prevent cogent discussion. but they are not something to be avoided or denied

        • Jones

          Kai is a humanoid-robot assembled from spare parts in a top secret lab. He’s programed only to post.

  8. gregor

    We got to fight the power back!

  9. King Tubby

    This is quite the best commentary for ages and to justify my 10 cents worth.

    I cooked dinner for my flatmates and a guest who was at ts. He lost a leg there, now wore a prosthetic device, and after years on the run eventually became a successful business guy, and he never spoke of the event to anyone including his wife.

    And for Stan, in 1945 Kerensky lived just down the road from where I presently reside. I think you have inherited some of Sverdlov’s cold Bolshevik discipline …Lenin’s implementor, offed the Romanovs, etc. A hardcore guy like the rest of his ML comrades and no friend of infantile adventurism….the latter being your genetic inheritance.

    Reactions to iconic VISUAL events.

    Hawke our pm when ts unfolded on tv every night in glorious colour and in 15 minute snippets, blubbed in public and gave the 30,000 Chinese students studying in Oz citizenship. They all took it.

    I recall thinking that it looked like some late ’60s Yippee celebration with sino versions of Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin et al, stroking their own egos, buffing their rad cvs and generally clueless about potential nasty consequences.

    As for 9/11 when in the ROK. The Koreans and Canadians were smirking. My first response: what the hell was the US airforce doing, since the airspace above the Pentagon was supposed to be a strict no-fly zone. No heads rolled.

    Student leaders are the same the world over, not to be trusted/followed and always sociopathic opportunists with an eye to the main chance.

    On a lighter note, judging by your avator and dress sense, you aint a hipster.

    • I deeply regret that Yakov did not leave any souvenirs to his family from the early years after the Bolsheviks came out on top. Since he was indeed in charge of the security detail that offed the Romanovs, I assume he made off with a Faberge egg or something. There must have been rewards for regicide back then.

      • King Tubby

        Stan. Forget your dodgy dress sense. I was however picking up and agreeing with your point that such events are organised by supreme opportunists, and that many non PRC people have saturated something well after the event with significance …..some sort of retro politico-emotional investment. (I have my own issues in this department like most other folk, but in completely different arenas.)

        I am not sure if I have dealt with this popular memory event correctly.

        As for your rotten Bolshie genes…..a good swim on an Hawaian beach will wash them away….just like Catholic confession.

        As for musical/cinematic riddles, you were not my audience.

        That was a good op piece, nonetheless.

  10. Let’s not kid ourselves – those of us that are related to P.R. China – either by blood, marriage, or money – know that we all have to do the interpretive dance to the powers to be in Beijing’s tune. Whether we dance it exactly someone’s exact interpretation – that is not exactly for us to call, but is fun to try to figure out.

  11. So you spent 1,400 words on a topic you allegedly don’t care about, to heap disrespect for other people who genuinely wish to mourn their dead?

    If you were in Hong Kong and saw 150,000 Chinese at the memorial, you wouldn’t have seen any apathy. Is it beyond your understanding that some events become touchstones? And that the more the government tries to cover up the news and keep people in jail, the more meaning it takes on?

    What’s your next brilliant piece? “Why We Shouldn’t Care About Africa Famine Victims Because I Haven’t Personally Seen Any of Them Starve to Death”? How about “Martin Luther King — Meh. Black People Get Shot All The Time.”

    Living in Beijing — and having all the many qualifications and degrees you’ve listed in your bio — you should know the enormous effort to keep this out of the media, classrooms, etc. I’m sure you’re smart enough to know you are not writing these things in a vacuum.

    Toying with the 6/4 denial / suppression thing plays into the hands of a state that is trying so hard to manipulate the history books. If you don’t care, why go on about it? You argument is dis-ingenuous. Or, as someone said, it’s like illogical teen angst.

    P.S. If you think there’s been no mourning or negative coverage over Afghan deaths, you obviously haven’t picked up a newspaper for about 8 years. Your line is straight out the 50-cent army, and makes no sense. Just because people are suffering elsewhere, doesn’t make a massacre in China less terrible.

    • While I may not be so harsh on Stan as Joyce, I have to thank her for the crisply worded and wryly amusing comment.

      I am still trying to sort out Stan’s arguments here, especially the “no emotional connection” part. Can you really look at the photos or watch the videos and read the descriptions of people who lost limbs, lives and loved ones in a country you care about deeply and feel no emotional connection? Sorry for dwelling on this, but somehow it just doesn’t make sense to me. Anytime I see any photos of human misery and suffering I feel an emotional connection, and thought that most of us did the same.

    • pug_ster


      I find some flaws with your statement. There’s still hunger in Africa and racism toward blacks today. Not to mention that drones hover over Afghanistan and some innocent person will probably be killed as the result of it. The ‘other’ incident was over 21 years ago. Most Chinese people moved on. If tomorrow the Chinese government decided to ‘disclose’ this incident to the public, will it fix the social and political problems in China? No.

      • bai ren

        Yea pugester, this protest does not symbolize state use of violence against public opposition in the post mao years.
        Or might it? while the issue surrounding the protest itself was political participation, or as Stan has mentioned economic disparity, do these issues not continue today? do authors of opinion pieces which disagree with the government not face opression, imprisonment and violence?
        6/4 shows the lengths that the government is willing to goto in defending its postition against public oposition.
        If tomorrow the CCP claimed that according to scientific socialism it had made a mistake in its decision making process during that protest and listed new policies on dealing with public opposition would CHina suddenly change? no. but you can be damned sure that the media and other public forums would, and that this step by step would seep through to everyday life

        • pug_ster

          I guess some of the 150,000 people who went to victoria park is to remember the victims died. Some other people like you seem to think the day as ‘let’s not forget about Chinese government repression day.’ However, more people are holding candles than are holding protest signs against the Chinese government so I am guessing most people are there for the former.

          The only problem with ‘let’s not forget about Chinese government repression day’ is that the Chinese government wasn’t the same as it was 21 years ago. And your ‘what if’s’ and ‘what happens when’ statements are just that. You are making up senarios that probably won’t happen.

          • Jones

            So what is THIS Chinese government’s reasoning for trying to hide it?

          • pug_ster

            what the hell are you talking about?

          • Jones

            “The only problem with ‘let’s not for get about Chinese government repression day’ is that the Chinese gov­ernment wasn’t the same as it was 21 years ago. ”

            This, obviously.

          • pug_ster

            When does a government (any government) would actually sanction a ‘government repression day?’

          • Jones

            Government-Repression Day? What?

            Now what are YOU talking about, pug_ster? I’m talking about it’s information being blocked online, definitely not mentioned in schools, etc. You knew exactly what I was talking about.

          • bai ren

            My ‘what if’ q’s etc. where in parallel to your own retorical question. not sure why you took me to task over that.
            furthermore I am with Jones, talking about and criticising this event is not to hate on China, but to demand that the government provides answers and responces to it rather than to continue to censore it, to jail those who publically discuss it in a critical way and to release those who were jailed because of it (my info here is sketchy as the last big name party afficalted guy who was in house arrest because of his support for the movement died a few years ago).

            the government today is not that of 21 years ago. okay sure ill bite. they do have different policy initives. deng said to be rich is to be glorious, jiang had his three represents which further encouraged personal and regional development. hu and wen are of the hamonize faction who want to try and level out regional economic disparities. but these differences do not mean that the current regiem has seperated itself from the actions of 21 years ago. far from that this is the scientific socialism of the ccp. to censore public discussion over sensitive topics (ie those that threaten the legitimacy of the rule and domain of the ccp) through the use of violence and imprisionment continues today.
            6-4 is a symbol of whao how the fuck could you go that far?! remembering 6-4 is a way to say we are worried that you might go this far again.

          • pug_ster

            You seem to talk like that it was some kind of one sided affair where the government killed for no good reason and the protesters are just innocent victims. Guess what? It is not. There were some protesters whom attacked and killed soldiers. One of the pictures in the salon website shows some soldier who was hanged and then was set on fire.

            BTW Jones bai ren, since when I was talking about censorship or since when I decided to choose sides? Since you mentioned it, I think the Chinese government should disclose more about this incident. The problem is that more people here seems to be more interested about the killing and the guy and the tank rather than why this incident happened in the first place.

          • bai ren

            sure enough you have not mentioned censorship. it is an issue we are concerned with as it seems you are.

            further more I criticize government use of violence over student use of violence not because I disagree that students used violence buit because I feel the government more than individuals in civil society need to be responsible for their actions… or if not more than first to set a standard of process because they represent the monopolization of the use of power.

            soliders who fight for an army rely upon their trust in the authority of the decision making process of their leaders. people in a riotess protest have no such authority to fall back upon, exect the authority of the power holders who dictate what practicess are acceptible, ie violence, or dialoge.

            if the CCP under hu began to emphasis dialoge over violene and imprisonment I would disagree that 6-4 is important to bring up. however they dont.

            while I dont criticise the students of this protest and others for their use of violence against violence. I disagree that it is effective or proper, only understandible. I agree that nonviolence is the best course and the course taken by those wise enough to attain the goals they seek.

            In a habitus of comsunerism do you seek your identity through means other than purchas? in a habitus of violence and repression can the common ppl choose better than the same methods to asstert their own poer (ie freedom?). maybe tianamen just lacked effective leaders

        • Jones

          Right. I know soldiers were killed. That’s what happens when you start attacking people. Sometimes people actually defend themselves when the situation arises. Now, if you’re suggesting the protesters were the first to draw blood, then that’s a whole other story.

          The reasoning why it happened in the first place is important, of course. Part of it was political, part wasn’t. Just depends on which protester you ask “what are you protesting for?”. However, I’m speaking in modern terms when the entire event has become political, as in the government’s reason for hiding it, the reasons others protest that, etc. It’s all political now.

    • Joyce,

      I think you’re misreading and misrepresenting Stan’s argument. He didn’t say he doesn’t care about the overall topic of TS. He said he has “dif­fi­culty get­ting emo­tional about events that took place a long time ago, in places I wasn’t liv­ing at the time, that involve peo­ple I didn’t know, and have to do with issues I don’t really care about.” You can question what those issues are, why he doesn’t care about them, and why the distant proximity in time and place contributes to his emotional detachment…but I’m not sure how he’s intentionally heaping disrespect on anyone who wants to mourn the dead.

      I suggest re-reading his post, especially part 4, where the reasons behind him writing 1400 words should be abundantly clear.


      Re-reading Stan, I don’t see where he says he has “no emotional connection.” He even explicitly says he feels sympathy for “any­one who gets shot at (or is shot, for that mat­ter), loses a friend, or is oth­er­wise trau­ma­tized.” He does say he has “difficulty getting emotional” and he has “a great deal of detachment”. I think if you revise your impression of Stan’s position with this in mind, it’ll be easier to sort out Stan’s argument.

      • Kai, I guess I got the impression that Stan felt little to no emotional connection when he wrote, “I am being sin­cere, though, when I say that I felt lit­tle to no per­sonal con­nec­tion with 9/11 or sim­i­lar inci­dents.”

        • And, “I have dif­fi­culty get­ting emo­tional about events that took place a long time ago.”

          • And, “So I’m look­ing at this with a great deal of detach­ment, pretty much the same level of feel­ing I get when I think about the 9/11 attacks: I would rather these things not have hap­pened, but beyond that, it’s just another loss of life that doesn’t effect me per­son­ally. More peo­ple die in auto acci­dents every year, or from heart dis­ease or Hep-B.”

            Sorry, but I do find this strange. The people in 911 and 6/4 didn’t die in accidents; they shouldn’t have died. To be so utterly blase about tremendous tragedies strikes me as odd, but maybe it’s just me. As Joyce said above, “What’s your next bril­liant piece? “Why We Shouldn’t Care About Africa Famine Vic­tims Because I Haven’t Per­son­ally Seen Any of Them Starve to Death”? How about “Mar­tin Luther King — Meh. Black Peo­ple Get Shot All The Time.”

        • Richard,

          I think you just quoted some of the exact same things I quoted. I don’t read anything outrageous in any of them.

          Stan isn’t comparing 9/11 and 6/4 to accidents, he’s comparing his emotional response and sense of personal connection. He seems to repeatedly recognize that this is just him, and not everyone may feel the same way. That’s a pretty reasonable position to take, in my opinion, to be honest about oneself and to recognize that other reactions are entirely possible.

          I don’t think he’s being blase about tremendous tragedies. Instead, I think he’s just being suspicious and critical of those he considers to have “selective memories” and “selective outrage”.

          As I already wrote above, I think Joyce has gotten really upset over a misunderstanding or misrepresentation of Stan’s piece. It would really help if she actually tries supporting her attacks against Stan by actually quoting the exact things Stan has written to justify her response.

          I do agree with you that she flamed Stan well (“crisply worded and wryly amusing”), but I don’t think she was justified in doing so.

          • @ Kai Pan. I’m glad my comments amuse you. :)
            I appreciate your wish to defend the blogger and his alleged sympathies.

            I don’t think there’s a misunderstanding of language. He calls foreign witnesses “bullsh*t.” He “doesn’t give a sh*t”. He’s “pissed off” and “annoyed” — not by the death of civilians, but by coverage and memorials. He accuses those who speak, write books or organize events around TS of “ulterior motives.”

            If that’s not dissing mourners, I don’t know what is. To say he’s blase is an understatement. If he wants to rant and rave, that’s fine. But let’s not make him any more sympathetic than he is.

            You say I’m upset. I am, but because China ran people over with tanks then lied about it for 20 years — not because of some blogger.

            P.S. Sorry to hear you have an impostor. That really sucks and I hope he goes away. I’m new to this site, and enjoy the writing you do here.

          • Stan isn’t com­par­ing 9/11 and 6/4 to acci­dents, he’s com­par­ing his emo­tional response and sense of per­sonal con­nec­tion.

            Yes, exactly. And I simply find that very odd. The lack of emotional response and lack of personal connection. And yet he’s able to generate so much emotion to complain about those who keep the memory alive. Sorry, Kai – I find it really strange. I guess we can leave it at that.

          • Jones

            “Stan isn’t com par ing 9/11 and 6/4 to acci­dents, he’s com par ing his emo tional response and sense of per sonal connection.”

            There’s a difference in that maybe he hasn’t personally known anyone killed in a car accident, or some other type of accident. However, we all live under a government that is supposed to be taking care of it’s people. To have them murder a large amount of people, in the open, on TV, with mechanized infantry, etc etc…it should hit home because it’s oppression. There’s more angles to this sort of atrocity than there would be for an “accident”. That’s how I see it, at least.

          • Joyce,

            He doesn’t call foreign witnesses “bullshit”. He calls expats who think they’re experts just for being in the city at the same time “bullshit”.

            I didn’t read him as being pissed off and annoyed by the coverage and memorials themselves, but by the the selfish and exploitative motivations behind some of the people involved. Again, all of this is spelled out in Part 4 of Stan’s post. Yes, he accuses some people of having “ulterior motives”. But could you honestly deny that? I don’t find it reasonable to insist that anyone having anything to do with TS is completely selfless and pure of heart. Many of these people and many of their actions regularly are questionable. Surely not all, but there’s enough people exploiting TS as some sort of sacred cow and that’s just not cool in my book.

            That’s not dissing mourners. That’s dissing people with ulterior motives. Why are you conflating the two? Nowhere does Stan remotely suggest that all mourners really have ulterior motives. Moreover, why is it cognitively impossible to separate criticism of ulterior motives from mourning? I can genuinely support your mourning but disagree with you the moment your mourning crosses over into serving some ulterior motive that is NOT mourning, can’t I?

            You can challenge Stan on examples of what he considers to evidence of ulterior motives, but damning him with the suggestion that any objection or criticism is an affront against mourning the dead is intellectually dishonest.

            I don’t see how I’m making him more sympathetic, unless you’re suggesting that offering a reasonable though different understanding of his words as supported by his contextualized words but is contrary to your vilification is “making him any more sympathetic than he is”. Come on, Joyce, the idea here is to understand what he’s saying, not shoehorn him into a straw man.

            Yeah, you’re upset about TS and the cover-up. We get that. But you’re definitely upset with this blogger too. However, I sincerely think you’re upset with this blogger for the wrong reasons. Yet, if you’re going to be disingenuous now about your feelings, well…

            I appreciate your appreciation of my writing, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the more you read from me, the more you’ll find yourself at odds with me. But yeah, let’s repeat this: Baidu is fucking garbage!

          • Richard,

            Some people get more emotional about some things than others. Hell, some people get more emotional than others about anything. However, I disagree with your characterization of Stan as being “able to gen­er­ate so much emo­tion to com­plain about those who keep the mem­ory alive”. The reason is because he’s not generating emotion complaining about “those who keep the memory alive”. Rather, he’s generating emotion complaining about those with “ulterior motives”.

            I think you’re conflating the two when it is entirely reasonable to separate the two. Maybe you don’t find it reasonable to separate the two. Maybe you find it strange. I just don’t. At all.

            Now, absolutely, some of the people using TS with ulterior motives are helping “keep the memory alive” as a by-product of their actions, and I don’t think Stan has a problem with that by-product or with anyone genuinely about remembering/mourning. He does, however, have a problem with any ulterior motives as he sees them.

            Again, he lays them out in Part 4. Challenge the existence of these types of people and these types of phenomenon that Stan is taking issue with if you want to challenge Stan’s position. But please don’t misrepresent Stan’s position.


            I’m pretty sure Stan fully understands the oppression aspect. The question is whether or not you understand the selective memories and selective outrage aspect that Stan is ranting about.

    • lolz

      At the end of the day, people deserve whatever government they have ruling over them.

      If there are hundreds of thousands of Hong Kong people who are disgusted with the Chinese government why don’t these people try to convince rest of the HK to stop doing business with mainland China? Hong Kong like Taiwan already has a nice large crowd who are disgusted with the mainlanders for a variety of reasons. Yet they continue to allow their lives to be associated and dependent upon Mainland China. Why is that?

      For all of the non-Chinese citizens in China, those who have already benefited or are looking forward for opportunities to gain along with China’s growth, all of them have benefited and are enablers of the Chinese government regardless of how they view themselves. It’s odd and hypocritical thus to see such posters bashing anyone who dare stray from the official western viewpoint this whole tragedy. Independent thinking means learning the facts and then make up the mind yourself. The fact of the matter is that the uprising had failed, and people in China today care a lot less about this whole thing than people who are outside of China. At the same time, the uprising gave rise to a new generation of Chinese rightwingers who further eroded Chinese people’s rights.

      • Lolz — There’s no rule that everyone who does business with China has to buy its politics blindly and unthinkingly.

        The more places do business with China, the better for everyone. If there are contrasting political opinions, that’s fine.

        Are only TS deniers allowed to contribute to the Chinese economy? I thought China wanted HK and Taiwan closer, not further away?

        The HK memorial gets people from all walks of life, including from the state-funded media, businesspeople who work with China, curious Mainland tourists, etc. Even a pro-Beijing legislator spoke about his sadness over TS.

        Not everyone who commemorates TS is a “basher.”

        Ironic that you speak of “independent thinking” and “learning the facts and making up your own mind.” You know full well that that is impossible for the average Mainland Chinese to do so regarding TS.

        Whether people are pro, against or indifferent, the information is blacked out.

        If there aren’t open discussions or memorials, it’s because no sane person wants to be throw into prison.

        If it wasn’t still a big deal, why would Beijing spend millions of yuan and endless man-hours censoring everything in sight in May and June?

        • lolz

          “There’s no rule that every­one who does busi­ness with China has to buy its pol­i­tics blindly and unthinkingly.”

          No there isn’t, but if you are going off about how you want to change the Chinese government, then relying on the Chinese government for your own well being doesn’t do your cause any good. Doing business with China helps the Chinese government because it contributes to China’s economic growth which gives the government mandate to do whatever it wants.

          “You know full well that that is impos­si­ble for the aver­age Main­land Chi­nese to do so regard­ing TS.”

          According to the western press there were at least hundreds of people who died at TS. Beijing is a crowded city and there would be at least tens of thousands of people who have witnessed or heard from direct witnesses on what had happened exactly. If people cared about all of this the news will spread regardless. There were too many witnesses.

          “If it wasn’t still a big deal, why would Bei­jing spend mil­lions of yuan and end­less man-hours cen­sor­ing every­thing in sight in May and June?”

          Because the Beijing government is run by a bunch of paranoid right wingers who can’t handle bad PR well.

          On a side note, it’s also odd to me that you want others to stand up to the Chinese government at their own expense, yet you yourself do not want to sacrifice your own happy dealings with China. If say a new group of Chinese people start to publish their viewpoints about TS which snowballed into a major riot and civil war, you would simply go home and away from the violence. Yet would places like HK, Taiwan, or Western nations who tacitly encouraged all of this be able to open its borders and take in millions and millions of Chinese refugees? From what I have seen the people who are talking about spreading freedom in China are the same people who want to close the borders and control the influx of mainlanders from China.

          • bai ren

            individuals look out for their own best interests. Are all corperations who did business with Americna firms (and their by pay taxes to its government) complicite in the war crimes of bush II? are those that did business with England and paid taxes to the government of Tony Blair complicit with the war crimes of his government? Or were they merely business men out to make proper business decidisions for their company to see success?
            Shit Henry Ford, asshole war criminal or american hero for mass producing the car? are Ford buyers
            complicite with the companys’ founder’s descision to suppo9rt Nazis????

            Yese lolz (I dont get a chance to shorten your name do i?) by doing business in china multinational firms does add to the power of the magic that the ccp uses. in our neoliberal society that means add money to the ability to legitimize amungst the masses.

            The question is what good what harm? what dissent what compliance?
            are consumer and netizen oriented businesses in china contributing to the development of civil society (and therey arguably democrasy) or are they showing the masses how right and great the ccp is?

            im not one to quickly jump to the banner of business and money,k but i find your argument and conclusions to be slightly short sighted

          • “There would have been at least tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who have wit­nessed or heard from direct wit­nesses on what had hap­pened exactly. If peo­ple cared about all of this the news will spread regard­less.”

            How can news can spread “regardless” without TV, radio, Internet, newspapers, books, education, Twitter, or cellphone messages?

            Word of mouth? You expect a billion Chinese to personally find a TS witness from 1989 and interview him? What witness would say anything now and risk jail?

            There’s not going to be a civil war / refugee crisis over 20-year-old news. People will be sad, but they aren’t going to flee en masse.

            Nobody wants China to close up. Everyone is happy China is opening in all sorts of fields, from economics and education, to arts and travel. If only information would open up more, too.

      • pug_ster

        Totally agree with you lolz, one of the posters here also run a blog where I posted comments and you should see the kind of comments I get. The comments there are just plain degrading yet the person running the blog allows them and censors my posts.

        I do agree that people who offers a different perspective or opinion than the official Western viewpoint are being questioned, as in Stan’s case. The sad thing is that the every year at this time when the Western Media make the usual condemnations, many Chinese posters just turn tone deaf because many of them felt that this incident is beaten like a dead cow. They are not engaging Chinese posters at all.

        • bai ren

          whose site is that? fuck them for not allowing critical discussion.

          second i try to keep in line with the uno9ffical chinese opinon that I come across. mind you it is not pop culture. especially since the sichuan earthquake and the olympics pop culture is WAY on the side of government support. but there are still those active who question the mainline.
          i agree that chinese posters should be engaged, infact this is what i look for in sights such as chinasmack (chinadivide has a minute if any chinese poster population). netizen to netizen communication not red neck versus red guard. this is the way for sure

  12. Hey Stan,

    I appreciate the honesty, but I have to take issue with two particular aspects of your contention. The apathy is here nor there; perhaps you’re predisposed to less emotional reactions, perhaps you don’t know enough people that were directly hurt in the process, whatever.

    But my bone is with two specific aspects: “not political” and “not widespread”.

    Political: I don’t disagree with you that the TS movement began, in part, as an economic struggle. However, among some participants, there was also a political driver from the beginning: corruption. But the latter aside, we can agree that it wasn’t a fundamental political struggle, *initially*.

    However, by the very reason that the military went in the first place was because it had morphed into a (rather directionless) protest against the gov’t. People had become more radicalized by being around others for days or weeks on end. It’s a common phenomenon in groups as well as social movements; the longer it lasts, the more radical the position may become.

    Anyway, it certainly became political, and as a history man your self, to deny this is not an accurate account. The account of Zhao Ziyang, which you’ve probably read, is a great primary document in this regard.

    Moreover, politics is what people make of it. And, thus, today, when other people struggling in civil society cite TS as an important event, then it *is* indeed political. (Anything can be political if it is connoted with sufficient evidence by participants of a political process.)

    Widespread. Your interpretation of “widespread” may be too stringent here. The largest social movements are still usually only a minority of a given national population, but the reason they are powerful forces of change (and therefore closely studied) is because of the disproportionate influence that they have on future social behavior, whether it be in the gov’t or the civil society.

    To say that TS wasn’t widespread seems innaccurate. Was it *as* widespread as CR? No. But it captured the anxieties of the top CCP officials (because they were deeply concerned that this would grow into something that was much larger if not handled), disrupted society deeply (in part because it reminded people of the scope of CR), and has remained a contentious issue. These may not be quantitative, but I think they are products of a sufficiently large movement to be called “widespread”.

    I think you may have been more accurate to focus on the lack of a sustained movement over the years. This is, in part, due to an effective repression apparatus. (Whereas in the US, for example, a movement like the civil rights campaign could carry on for years.)

    In this is the key that you may have failed to mention: TS wasn’t sustained as a movement primarily because the CCP has/have an effective suppression ability. From a social movement perspective, this is typical in illiberal societies. (“Illiberal” as defined by political rights, not necessarily all civil or economic freedoms.) But the fact that repression is typical does not make the movement insignificant.

    Indeed, what TS signified was a desire and will on the part of hundred of thousands to call for serious reforms. Even if it were only economic — it wasn’t — then this would still be a significant historical event for nothing more than it threatens the CCP monopoly over the political space.

    A rhetorical: if it wasn’t a widespread political event, then why is the CCP still, to this day, obsessed with political association controls that they put in place in direct response to TS?

    Stan, I think I understand your frustration with some people treating this as a democracy movement. That is where most people tend to err when they speak of TS and its current significance. But just because we can agree that it wasn’t a democracy movement doesn’t mean that we can agree that it wasn’t political, or even widely political.

    Thanks for the piece!

    • Kevin,

      Good post, you’re the closest to touch upon what may be confounding quite a few people here.

      However, do you think Stan used the “wrong” words to express how he feels? Or do you think the words he used were simply too general and thus subject to interpretation? Maybe some people would interpret his use of “political” and “widespread” the way he intended (which is what I think I did) while others would interpret them differently, perhaps to more specific meanings?

      Sure, we can say it is Stan’s responsibility to communicate exactly what he means, but I just think people aren’t pausing to consider other interpretations before jumping to the one they want to react to.

    • Kevin,

      Good stuff. As I commented above, some of the discussion on semantics is helpful, and I think you are right to point out the distinctions here.

      I agree with you, for example, that a lot of frustration I have with commentary about TS is the automatic pigeonholing the event as a democracy movement without discussion of the larger context. It’s probably more useful to use more narrow language than a very broad term like “political.”

      • bai ren

        Not really sure where to bring this point up so i figured a reply near the bottom would be best.
        (first a quick note, often my replys have been covered as I type them with other text from lower posts, a proxy problem, my laptop problem???)

        I talked with a guy in harbin who was nine at the time. he related to me how in the capital of heilongjiang here students fron heilongjiang university marched from their school to a major statue across town in protest this day. one of the political science teachers was later arrested. I had in my 3 years plus in this city never heard such an account and question how widespread similar provincial marches/protests were.
        the guy was nine at the time but emphasised to me the freedom demanded by the students… I wasnt able to clearly define what kind of freedom so I wont keep harping on the political aspect.
        however as far as widespread goes a sympathy or corrispondant protest in the norther capital of harbin which is not widely acknowledged emphasises how widespread this might have been.

        i will note here. I do not see this date as anything more than a symbol. I do not want to bring it up to help support a democrasy movement but rather I bring it up with other important items of censorship and repression. while this post has gotten one of the highest postings ()i think) on cd commenters on the left side have taken over and rightwing (or i dunno anti ccp) side have been fairly silent, where are the likes of pusan player etc? they dont always offer commentable comments, but they do contribute a blance in emotional debate. which is well what we have here… emotional on interpretation/memory of an event or emotional over the terms of debate and argument presentation

  13. (I haven’t been responding to everything quickly as I’m supposed to be on holiday.)

    Since some of the threads have petered out and there are a few common issues throughout some of the comments, let me address a couple in a fresh thread.

    1. My lack of emotional reaction. Richard and others have commented on this. I don’t know what to say, folks. I have tried to be as honest as possible here, and no, I was not emotional about 9/11 when it happened, any more than I was about 1989. I was much more emotional when the Berlin Wall fell – that was an obvious major historical event that had a significant effect on the whole world.

    If my lack of emotional response disturbs some of you, well, sorry about that. I try to throw it all out there when I blog, for better or worse. I also don’t mind the negative feedback, which I assume is also sincere. That’s what we’re here to do after all.

    However, just because I don’t have a strong emotional response, that doesn’t mean that I do not make value judgments or lay blame. Even though my feelings about 9/11 are about as comparable to deaths from traffic accidents, that doesn’t mean for example that I wouldn’t like to have the planners of 9/11 brought to justice.

    Similarly, I would be very pleased if the PRC could clear the historical air with an apology and public acknowledgment of what went on in 1989. None of this has any impact on my emotional involvement, though. Issues relating to justice and the rule of law do not always have to be backed up by raw emotion.

    2. My statements about witnesses and activists. I think Kai has backed me up well on this, but for the record, I have no problem with truth and sincerity, and I empathize with personal loss. What I don’t like, and I am repeating myself here, are people that make a career out of these types of events for their own gain. I do not respect that kind of thing, period.

    I dislike seeing the same TS faces, over and over again, every time the U.S. Congress wants to issue a new report about China’s wrongdoing. Many of these hearings don’t even have anything to do with Chinese politics, and I think these people are invited to give testimony just because they are reliably anti-CCP. Again, I simply don’t like that.

    But please don’t conflate that with my somehow dissing mourners, sincere activists, etc. I may have emotional shortcomings, but I’m not that bad.

    • What I don’t like, and I am repeat­ing myself here, are peo­ple that make a career out of these types of events for their own gain.

      You and Kai both refer to these people, the ones with ulterior motives. Do you mean NGOs like Human Rights Watch, or people like Wu’er Kaixi, or are you simply referring to expats who were there who, in your opinion, present themselves as experts? This is awfully vague and raises all sorts of question marks. (And maybe this is why you have to repeat yourself; who you are referring to is not clear at all.) The ones I can think of who were there and maybe passed themselves off as experts are Jan Wong, Nicholas Kristof, John Pomfret, Phil Cunningham and a few others. Are these the ones you mean, and what did they do that offends you so much? I think any eyewitness to what happened at that time has an interesting story to tell and I can’t blame them for telling their stories, unless they were fabricating or trumping themselves up. Do we have reason to believe they were? I don’t mean to be argumentative, but this whole post remains a mystery to me, and is perhaps the oddest post I’ve read on the incident ever. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) If you are so concerned about people with ulterior motives trying to stoke up the memories, why not be equally upset with those who have much darker – in my mind – ulterior motives in keeping the entire thing bound in secrecy, to the point of unprecedented censorship and covering up?

      • hm

        I really suggest you re-read his post and his comment. The answers to your questions are quite clear.
        In fact, you answer it in your own comment.

      • oiasunset


        Being a liberal you are extremely naive to manipulation.

        I second Stan whole-heartedly as someone who was THERE. Suffice to say that I have a first-hand story to tell about 21 years ago, but I choose not to make a career (or benefits) of it because:

        1. I’m not a liberal loser – I fought a good fight, (we) lost that battle, swallowed it and lived on. Nothing to brag about that. Did Napolean complain about his “unfair” defeat in Waterloo and whine for justice from Duke of Wellington? I don’t think so.

        2. Chai Ling el al are traitors to our cause and, because they escaped with all the donation money (huge sums in those days) to the US, have lost any credibility. In fact, if there is another revolution and I come to power, I would hang them.

        Liberals are all about talks but zero about action – they just want to talk others into dying for them. That is their “ulterior” motive. I say go to hell with that.

        • Who made a career to benefit from it? That’s a pretty innocent question? As it stands it’s a straw man. Glad you don’t like liberals, and appreciate the “I say go to hell with that.”

      • Richard,

        If you are so con­cerned about peo­ple with ulte­rior motives try­ing to stoke up the mem­o­ries, why not be equally upset with those who have much darker – in my mind – ulte­rior motives in keep­ing the entire thing bound in secrecy, to the point of unprece­dented cen­sor­ship and cov­er­ing up?

        Come on, dude, you’re making the “if you’re upset about something that I consider unimportant, why aren’t you upset about another thing that I consider more important” argument. I’m pretty sure you’ve suffered such an argument enough in your years to have learned to not make it yourself.

        • Dan

          This is the exact argument that was used in the second to last paragraph.

          • Dan,

            First of all, I think you make a very reasonable and emphatic point in your other comment on the grounds of something approaching “tact”.

            Second, eh, I don’t think its the same exact argument. I read Stan’s second to last paragraph as him coming full circle to reiterate his point about people’s biases and selectivity, insofar as their memories and outrage appear selective to him.

        • Kai, this line of thinking was introduced by Stan:

          Why should we be par­tic­u­larly out­raged by this act of vio­lence by a gov­ern­ment and not, for exam­ple, give a fly­ing *#)% about drone attacks in Afghanistan or wars of aggression?

          Just using the poster’s own reasoning. Did you call Stan on that?

          • Richard,

            Eh, maybe. I can see how you feel the reasoning in the quote you offer is similar in the argument you were making above, but I feel you’re taking that quote out of the larger context. The quote itself makes an argument, but the argument it contributes to in the larger context is different. See my above response to Dan.

            I feel Stan is making a solid point about selective memories/outrage, something that is very easy to see when reading his entire post as context for any individual sentence he makes. He’s reacting to the phenomenon of selective memories/outrage. On the other hand, I feel your argument above is reacting to Stan writing this post about selective memories/outrage as opposed to writing about how bad the Chinese government is for doing what they did and suppressing the history. Maybe I’m being unfair to you, but I do get the impression that you treat TS as a sacred cow, and that anything written that veers away from focused condemnation of the Chinese government is some sort of blasphemy.

            I feel Stan is questioning selective outrage itself whereas you’re trying to dictate outrage. Stan is questioning behavior, whereas you seem to be questioning the subject of behavior. Two very different things in my book.

  14. lolz

    As I wrote in a reply to another post, my opinion is that people deserve whatever government they have. There is no doubt that good portion of Chinese population are not living well, but if Chinese people as a whole have not risen to demand a change in the government, that is because as they choose stability over their current sufferings.

    Looking at recently history I don’t think western media’s editorials masquerading as news over variety of controversial issues in china has helped anything.
    As much as many Americans hating on Bush or Obama (depending on their political preferences), I have yet to see many Americans who are happy to see foreign pundits telling Americans how they should run their country.

    On the TS event specifically, I see this as just another failed rebellion in China’s long history. I am not only talking about the actual rebellion at the time, but the effects which it had on the Chinese people afterward. The official line of the Human Rights people and most of the Western press blamed Chinese government’s censorship on the failing of the TS to gather sympathy and influence of the Chinese people. I agree that this event is heavily censored but I strongly disagree with these sources completely discounting the progress which China has made in the last twenty years as the reason why so many Chinese are apathetic to TS.

    In the recent month there have been some other rebellions where the government used force. The protests in Kazakhstan and Thailand both ended up in governments firing on protesters followed by heavy censorship. Yet these events has gotten very little attention and outrage from the Western media the same way TS has.

    • Lolz — Are you living under a media rock?

      Bangkok was all over the TV, Internet, magazines and papers for over a month! There was outrage and denouncements from governments, NGOs and business groups, from both inside and outside Thailand.

      Bangkok was on the front page of the International Herald Tribune, where I work, almost daily for three weeks. It was probably the top Southeast or East Asian story this year.

      TS got one story (pg 3, about Li Peng’s newly released diary) and one photo (pg 1, out of HK).

      I’d be surprised if we didn’t run 30+ pieces criticizing Bangkok.

      We had two Bangkok correspondents on the ground (one of whom was almost shot). Then we flew in a conflict specialist and a photographer. Everyone was there — BBC, CNN, etc.

      The media publish awful stuff from all over the world. We do much more on the horrors of the Afghan war than we do on rights in China — and we’re owned by an American company.

      Like the media, NGOs criticize all governments. Amnesty just lashed out at America for an attack in the Middle East.

      Only in China (and maybe among some overseas Mainland Chinese) is this weird idea that the international media are out to get China. Sorry, Lolz. But China isn’t special. We treat China the way we treat everyone — critically.

      Anyway, this is all a big tangent from the problem at hand: A horrible killing and China’s censorship.

      I am appalled that so many thousands of words have been spent here, and so very few used to express sympathy for student civilians killed by their own military. People seem alot more interested in defensiveness, chest-beating and blaming foreigners.

      Outside Mainland controls, there is widespread sadness over this, regardless of people’s nationalities or politics.

      • lolz

        ‘There was out­rage and denounce­ments from gov­ern­ments, NGOs and busi­ness groups, from both inside and out­side Thailand.”

        No I don’t live under a media rock I just don’t live in Thailand. When I googled “denounce Thai government” or “denouncing Thaskin” I don’t get much results telling me that governments are doing such. I did find some articles saying that the US is rather silent on this. Searching through NYT’s website, I can’t find once the use of the word “massacre” in the headlines, or “bloody crackdown” in the body on articles about the Thai crackdown. Since you are so much more knowledgeable about the media than me, can you tell me which of the G8/G20 governments denounced Thaskin and where I can find this info on non-thai newspapers?

        “Only in China (and maybe among some over­seas Main­land Chi­nese) is this weird idea that the inter­na­tional media are out to get China. Sorry, Lolz. But China isn’t spe­cial. We treat China the way we treat every­one — critically.”

        Of course only in China you would get people to complain about media bias against China. Do you think Chinese would complain about European media’s bias against America? Why would they? Also, just who are “we”? You? Your paper, NYT? Western “journalists”? Pundits? I am not sure where you get the confidence to speak for other journalists but you write like you have been drinking way too much corporate kool-aid.

        Here is a more serious question: Your newspaper’s goal is make money by reporting on things which people want to read about no? There are millions of injustices out there in the world and only a limited amount of spaces to write them on your paper, how do you prioritize what gets written in the paper? The way I see it by the way of logistics you cannot treat every news piece fairly.

        “The media pub­lish awful stuff from all over the world. We do much more on the hor­rors of the Afghan war than we do on rights in China — and we’re owned by an Amer­i­can company.”

        There is faulty logic here. Shouldn’t an American company cover more about Afghan war than China’s rights issues just because its audience are Americans and would be more interested in American related news? If you read XinHua you can also claim that the newspaper has a lot more articles criticizing different aspects of China than it criticizes America. I am interested in what kind of articles your paper (or NYT) has covered on the “horrors of Afghan” war though. NYT has very few articles/editorials questioning the ethics of drone attacks which often kills the wrong targets and make everyone in the targeted home collaterals.

        “I am appalled that so many thou­sands of words have been spent here, and so very few used to express sym­pa­thy for stu­dent civil­ians killed by their own mil­i­tary. Peo­ple seem alot more inter­ested in defen­sive­ness, chest-beating and blam­ing foreigners”

        So you are basically upset because people here have different opinions on this matter than you do. Speaking of being defensive, I find it funny that you are being very defensive yourself when it comes to western media’s bias when covering China.

        “Out­side Main­land con­trols, there is wide­spread sad­ness over this, regard­less of people’s nation­al­i­ties or politics.”

        Of course, and if anyone who dared to write something different than what you think should be written, you claim that they work for the Chinese government, are ignorant Mainlanders, and give them guilt trips :)

        • lolz: I am interested in what kind of articles your paper (or NYT) has covered on the “horrors of Afghan” war though. NYT has very few articles/editorials questioning the ethics of drone attacks which often kills the wrong targets and make everyone in the targeted home collaterals.

          Hmmm, looks like the quality of your research is as razor-sharp as your logic. But how do you define “very few”? To me, it looks they’ve given this quite a bit of coverage.

          Like this.

          And this.

          And this.

          And this.

          Oh, and this, too.

          You see, this whole argument is founded on a false premise, namely that the US media spends an inordinate amount of space blaming or criticizing China for shit and ignoring or downplaying shit in other countries. It is simply not true. I can clip front-page stories on the Thai rebellions til the proverbial cows come home. There have been countless NYT articles on the horrors of the Iraqi and Afghan occupations, and multiple reviews of books about these two topics as well. Many more stories are written about China’s glowing economy than about human rights abuses there. But no matter how many links I find, no matter how many stories I direct you too, it won’t make any difference. China is still the victim of unfairness.

          Just as Stan alleges there are mysterious unnamed people who profit from the annual June 4 anguish, so too do I maintain there is a far larger number of blogs and Chinese netizens so caught up in this argument of media unfairness against China that they’ve made it nearly a fulltime job. I think they are sincere. They actually believe it. But they are irrational because no matter how much proof you give them that this “bias” occurs in virtually every story you see in the media about every topic, without fail, they still insist they are right.

          lolz: I am inter­ested in what kind of arti­cles your paper (or NYT) has cov­ered on the “hor­rors of Afghan” war though

          I am not sure if you are joking, or hoping that if you make outrageous statements no one will fact-check you. Instead of my listing all the stories the NYT has provided us on this topic, just go here. Don’t miss this one.

          Or this one.

          Or this one.

          Let’s face it. This was an oddly conceived post that bothered a lot of readers, and for good reason. We can parse and bicker as much as we want, but at the end of the day the fact remains. when you brush aside (or even appear to brush aside) horrible, needless tragedies by saying more people die in car accidents, you are setting yourself up for criticism. Maybe Stan didn’t mean to come across that way, but he did. It’s good to see this site’s commenters call it out.

        • You’re right that news judgment is subjective. It’s not even the same between the IHT Europe and Asia editions.

          I don’t think most people saw Bangkok as a massacre, but as a street battle between two sides. I agree there wasn’t the same level of condemnation as TS, because it wasn’t the same size, or situation.

          Maybe I shouldn’t have used “denounced.” The wording wasn’t that strong. My point was just that, it wasn’t like the world was ignoring Bangkok and harping unfairly on China.

          It’s hard to draw a parallel between two different news stories.

          I think 19 protesters died in Bangkok. They trashed the city, some were armed and the group had a history of violence.

          Meanwhile, the Maguindanao massacre in the Philippines was pretty clearly seen as a massacre.

          I can’t explain all the news decisions in the paper. It’s not perfect, obviously. I also don’t want to divert into irrelevant issues like drone attacks (except that they are very bad.)

          (BTW I comment here as an individual, not as a representative of the IHT. I just state my employer to be honest about who I am. But it’s purely personal opinion.)

          My broad point is China is going to get more coverage since it’s a big, important nation, but also one that has alot of problems. And that there’s no active effort to be biased against one country.

          As for TS vs. Bangkok, I think they are just different stories.

      • lolz

        “Only in China (and maybe among some over­seas Main­land Chi­nese) is this weird idea that the inter­na­tional media are out to get China.”

        BTW Joyce, I am a bit curious as to why you think only overseas Mainland Chinese would feel Western media’s bias against China. Some of the contributors on this probably feel this way too and most of them are white, raised and educated in the US. Someone mentioned about the journalist Phillip Cunningham, he has also written about what he sees as western media’s anti-China bias on his blog. Some of my friends whom have visited China has felt that the China they experienced is a lot better than the one they see on teevee.

        Are you assuming that the overseas Mainland Chinese are so stupid, so brainwashed that they can’t think for themselves even when are not in China? From what I understand, the term “Mainlander” is commonly used as a pejorative in Hong Kong to mean someone who is ignorant or stupid. You are insisting the same thing here no? Is this a habit of yours?

        • Are you assum­ing that the over­seas Main­land Chi­nese are so stu­pid, so brain­washed that they can’t think for them­selves even when are not in China?

          If I didn’t know better, I’d say you were putting words in someone’s mouth, questionable syntax aside. Based on my own experience with strident overseas Chinese, I’d have to say they are considerably more hysterical on this subject than those on the mainland, maybe due to a sense of not belonging, maybe due to perceived prejudice in the US – I can’t really say. But did anyone even hint that they were stupid, or are you simply projecting? And I have to say, on the other hand, that there are many overseas Chinese I’ve interacted with who are repelled by this perennial victimhood and who are extremely reasonable on the subject of perceived bias. So I would avoid generalizations.

          From what I under­stand, the term “Main­lan­der” is com­monly used as a pejo­ra­tive in Hong Kong to mean some­one who is igno­rant or stu­pid. You are insist­ing the same thing here no? Is this a habit of yours?

          I think this tells us all we need to know about lolz.

  15. Dan

    I think you have a solid point in your post, but I think as the number of comments show (and as your need for a Ground Rules preface also proves) something’s been lost here. I think, if you’re going to write about a topic that inherently is full of emotion (as you clearly understand) and you know people have such strong opinions about, you’re going to have to be more careful. With your last four words, “awaiting something more relevant,” it has to come across to more than one person that you really just don’t care about what happened. And that your apathy is malicious towards anyone who does care.

    The people here who know you well will understand your true intent and meaning. Everyone else comes into this post with their own experiences (such as attending candle vigils in HK), sees point No. 2 and thinks you’re talking about them. Or reads “not widespread” and believes you think this was a rag-tag group of individuals no larger than your average sized American college fraternity.

    Anything about TS is loaded and you clearly know it. Just like 9/11 is loaded. We can discuss over another day whether or not you should be feeling any emotion over it, but the point is you know many people do. And if you do, I think you have to be more careful in how you word things.

    I’ll bring up point No. 2 again. Activists who were there and are suddenly experts and make careers out of their supposed experience. Name one to ground your accusation so we know exactly who you’re talking about. I mean do the TS Mothers qualify here? I mean I know they probably don’t, but I’m sure there are people who would take what you wrote and think that. And then with your tone (No. 3 doesn’t help) it just sounds like you’re vilifying them. The TS Mothers, of all people.

    And just because someone is against what happened in TS doesn’t mean they aren’t also intellectually outraged at Iraq. Afghanistan. Everyone has issues they are particularly drawn to and certain events they have emotional connections with. It might be selective but it’s no more selective than being more angry about my best friend dying and a boy starving in Africa. That doesn’t mean I can’t take serious issue and/or offense to the latter.

    • @ Stan. I’m glad you wrote what you did on the PRC clearing the air with an apology. I’m also glad you’re not dissing mourners and activists — it just sure sounded like it. (See your friend Dan, above).

      It’s like blogging on an earthquake anniversary that you don’t care about dead kids. You can explain all you want that it’s some weird personal emotional glitch, but everyone will still read it the wrong way.

      Your piece was deliberately provocative. And unfortunately, the thing it mostly provoked was leftist craziness.

      After reading some of the other comments — relatively speaking, your post is like a warm, fuzzy bedtime story. (We don’t get the mad conspiracy theorists in HK. Even pro-Beijingers here believe that mass killings happened and should be addressed.)

      Re: people using TS “for their own gain.” I’m sure there are some (i.e. Chinese students who made up TS stories to get asylum).

      But they are a tiny minority. Most people who do TS-related work don’t do it for gain. 150,000 protesters didn’t get a cent. Memorial organizers are mostly volunteers. NGO workers are not paid much.Journalists, writers and publishers get paid — but they could get paid way more doing other stuff.

      What’s wrong with someone dedicating his career to a controversy? There are activists who spend their lives advocating against genocides or wars.

      My favorite university professor was a Holocaust expert. He published works, organized events and founded a foundation. Cynically, you could say that he “made a career” and “got tenure” off a horrible event. Most would say he chose a field of study.

      I presume you’re referring to TS student leaders who escaped to the US. (Correct me if I’m wrong).

      That professor was a Holocaust survivor who escaped to the US and Canada. He worked to ensure it wasn’t forgotten.

      China is trying to force a nation to forget. You might not like some TS activists or American politicians, but I’m just glad someone is ensuring this doesn’t get swept under the carpet.

      P.S. I grew up in New England, where people think Hong Kong is in Japan. I wouldn’t take the Bostonians’ comments too seriously.

  16. ben

    Maybe the point he makes is that people who are not directly involved in a big event are made to feel they do. People died therefore YOU SHALL CARE. Some of our countrymen are offended therefore WE ARE ALL offended. RISE UP AND PROTECT OUR NATIONAL INTEREST BEFORE OUR NATION IS DESTROYED, ANYONE WHO DISAGREES IS THE ENEMY!
    Every country uses PROPAGANDA to turn historical events to their own political and economic advantage. The real knack is to get every one to join in you and then make lots of money. This way of thinking exists where ever there is a nation regardless of what is is said to believe.