China's Tiananmen Square

Thirty years since the Tiananmen Square protests, China’s economy has catapulted up the world rankings, yet political repression is harsher than ever. Hundreds of thousands of Muslims are held in re-education camps without charge, student activists face relentless harassment and leaders in the beleaguered dissident community have been locked up or simply vanished. Religious groups face ever greater pressure to conform, and a web of mass surveillance is bolstering a system many call totalitarian. It’s a far cry from the hopes of the idealistic student demonstrators, and a level of control far beyond what many imagined possible, even after the army’s bloody crushing of the protests on the night of June 3-4, 1989. Critics say the Tiananmen crackdown, which left hundreds, possibly thousands, dead, set the ruling Communist Party on its present course of ruthless suppression, summary incarceration and the frequent use of violence against opponents in the name of “stability maintenance.” “The June 4 incident changed the direction of Chinese history,” said Zhang Lifan, who in 1989 was a scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “The narrative that China would grow strong and normal, become a stable country through a process of political reform, was destroyed.” Chinese officials routinely respond to questions about the suppression by pointing to the economic progress China has made. In the three decades since the protests, China has risen to become the world’s second-largest economy and is forging ahead in areas from high-speed rail to artificial intelligence and 5G mobile communications. China’s…

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