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Jun 3, 2024, 1:55pm EDT
securityEast Asia
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Semafor Signals

Chinese activists commemorate 35th Tiananmen anniversary as Beijing cracks down on dissent

Insights from Tai Sounds, Activist Fengsuo Zhou, and The Diplomat

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A demonstrator holds a banner outside the parliament marking the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in London, Britain
REUTERS/Carlos Jasso
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The News

Tuesday will mark the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which occurred on June 4, 1989, when Chinese authorities opened fire on thousands of pro-democracy students and activists, solidifying the Chinese Communist Party’s grip on the country.

China has long censored any mentions of the massacre or illusions to it, but elsewhere around the globe, activists and survivors celebrate the memory of the pro-democracy movement.

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Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

China’s global reputation still damaged 35 years later

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Sources:  
Wall Street Journal, Tai Sounds

The international fallout immediately after Tiananmen was a “one-time shock” for China, a researcher told The Wall Street Journal, but the country’s subsequent slide toward authoritarianism and transnational repression under Xi Jinping has created “a systematic, progressive, long-term falloff” in its global reputation, especially in the West. China was still a relatively poor country in 1989 and needed to repair its global reputation, Taiwan-based news outlet Tai Sounds argued, but now, Beijing no longer needs to tread delicately around the June 4 massacre, and has ramped up attempts to suppress memories of the attack.

Survivors highlight small protests and crackdowns across China

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Sources:  
The Guardian, Activist Fengsuo Zhou

While the Tiananmen demonstrations were the epicenter of China’s pro-democracy movement, this year, survivors are sharing memories of the dozens of other protests and crackdowns across Chinese cities. It was precisely because the movement spread nationwide it became “much more frightening to the government and one reason why it needed to have a show of force” said one Australia-based sociologist, but these smaller protests are at “even greater risk of being forgotten,” wrote The Guardian’s Beijing bureau chief Lily Kuo. The student resistance in cities like Chengdu was “fierce and the suppression was the most brutal,” recalled June 4 survivor Fengsuo Zhou.

Hong Kong looks to crack down on Tiananmen commemorations

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Sources:  
South China Morning Post, The Diplomat

In Hong Kong — once the only city in China where activists could openly commemorate June 4 victims — new national security laws forbid large-scale vigils. The city has deployed hundreds of undercover police officers to monitor events commemorating Tiananmen, the South China Morning Post reported, and eight people have been arrested over the last week for posting social media content related to the massacre. One of those arrested includes Chow Hang-tung, a prominent human rights lawyer already serving time for separate national security violations. “Chow’s courage and resolve in the face of this repression exemplify Hong Kongers’ collective determination to fight back,” The Diplomat wrote.

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