Thursday, June 4, 2009

It Was 20 Years Ago Today that Sgt. Pepper Taught the Band to Play

On June 4th, 1989, a million people were cleared out of Tienanmen Square by Chinese army tanks. I found it interesting, though not surprising, to read in the past week's news coverage that the Chinese youth of today have little knowledge of this event because the media was so restricted at the time of the event and continues to be restricted to this day. Despite initial reports from the Chinese Red Cross that 2,600 people were killed they now deny ever issuing those reports and the Chinese government put the official death toll at 241.

This week, websites, news agencies and other media outlets in China have been blocked, shut down, censored and otherwise restricted from making any mention of Tienanmen square and the protests that occurred there. Vocal critics deemed likely to make note of these events have been preemptively placed under house arrest.

Unfortunately foreign governments and political leaders will make no protests of their own because the world needs China to help with growing nuclear threats from N. Korea and Iran and companies that do business in China (even media and internet service providers that will be involuntarily censored) will say nothing because they have to keep Chinese government officials happy in the hopes that they can expand into China's ever-growing, ever-strengthening market.

So, until Chinese media and Chinese citizens gain the right to free speech the rest of the world has to do our part in remembering, and talking about, these events and hoping that they will one day be seen as pivotal moments in the path to obtaining the basic human rights and freedoms that many non-Chinese citizens enjoy today.

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