Lawrence Cannon calls for "public accounting"
In a statement on the eve of today's 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon joined the chorus of voices calling for a public accounting of the massacre.
"The 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square tragedy provides an opportunity for China to remember those who lost their lives at that time while calling for political and economic reforms in China," Cannon said. "Twenty years later, we hope that they will be able to examine these events in an open and transparent fashion -- including the public accounting of those killed, detained or missing."
Cannon shouldn't hold his breath -- nor should anyone else in the world.
The Communist Party regime in China will certainly not hold any kind of public accounting into Tiananmen Square unless they need to do so in order to hold on to power. As sad as it may be to realize this, they simply don't.
In Mediapolitik, Lee Edwards outlined how the Chinese government micro-managed coverage of the massacre. In 1989 China was a very different country than it is today. While today the amount of coverage that the massacre received in the international media -- partially through the efforts of Canada's own Jan Wong, who witnessed the massacre from the relative safety of her nearby hotel room -- would almost assure that Tiananmen Square would be common knowledge throughout China, the average Chinese citizen didn't have satellite television or the internet in 1989.
Instead, the Chinese government repressed coverage of Tiananmen Square within China's borders. Even today when many Chinese citizens learn about the massacre it's in the history books published in other countries.
Even when the Chinese government acknowledged -- on a very limited basis -- the occurrence of the massacre, they played it off as necessary to contain "violent militant anti-revolutionaries".
Yet Wong's own reflection of the event, as told in Red China Blues, tells a different story. Rather, much of the Chinese student movement's fervour was staged for international cameras. Wong recounts witnessing one student in particular furiously waving a pro-democracy banner when television cameras were on him, then slumping over and smoking a cigarette when they had moved on.
Whatever the Chinese student movement had planned to accomplish at Tiananmen Square, taking up arms against the communist government wasn't one of their goals.
To make matters worse, comparatively few foreign leaders are willing to hold the Chinese government responsible for what occurred at Tiananmen Square on June 5, 1989. When former Prime Minister Jean Chretien toured China in the 1990s he refused to so much as utter the words "human rights" and instead referred to "good governance and the rule of law".
When the rule of law allows the government to run over its citizens with tanks, there's little question that whatever governance exists in that country is not "good".
Yet even Cannon is willing to to echo similar statements when he refers to China's economic development -- achieved at the direct expense of more than 100 million Chinese citizens who were dislocated from their homes in order to serve as a mobile labour force -- as an advance for human rights.
Anyone expecting the Chinese government to suddenly be forthcoming about the events of June 5, 1989 shouldn't hold their breath.