Andrew J. Nathan and Hua Ze in The New Republic:
It is unlikely that anyone outside of China who watched the massacre of peaceful protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on live TV 25 years ago will ever forget the events of that horrible day.
The Chinese regime argues that the shooting of unarmed pro-democracy demonstrators laid the groundwork for political stability and China’s miraculous economic growth. Yet the continuous intensification of repression since then tells another story. Most recently, in early May, the regime “disappeared” a dozen rights activists merely for meeting in a private apartment to commemorate June 4, 1989 and formally detained one of them, human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
This was just the latest in a series of harsh repressions. Five years ago, Tiananmen activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was handed an eleven-year prison sentence for advocating civil rights and constitutionalism. Earlier this year, human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years in prison for opposing corruption and abuse of power. The National Endowment for Democracy, with which we are both affiliated, honored Liu and Xu on May 29 in the U.S. Congress in an effort to raise awareness of their cases in advance of the Tiananmen anniversary—and through their cases, to bring awareness to the estimated 4,800 political prisoners in Chinese jails and camps.
The need to sustain and progressively intensify repression is a sign that the June 4 crackdown did not solve China’s problems; it exacerbated them.