China: Thirty Years Since The Tiananmen Square Massacre
(Thirty years ago, on June 4, 1989, the world witnessed the horror of the Chinese Army firing at unarmed students and civilian protestors at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, with assault rifles and tanks, killing and injuring a huge number. The Chinese government had declared martial law a day before, following massive student protests and a hunger strike demanding a free press and the right to protest.
Liberation covered the Tiananmen Square massacre in its June 1989 issue. In this feature we share excerpts from that issue, and also look at students protests in contemporary China.)

The Students’ Demands

THE Liberation June 1989 issue  commented on “the clarity, boldness and youthful passions of the agitating students,” and described the student protests in detail, accompanied by photographs of the protestors:

“The students' major slogans during the first phase of the agitation (i.e., upto the beginning of the hunger strike) were fairly indicative of their original mood : “Support the Communist Party, support socialism”, “Eliminate corruption”, “Long live the May 4th spirit”, “Dialogues should  be  sincere”,  “Give us  human rights', “Rule by law — yes, rule by man – no”. Their specific demands included one for publishing the accounts of properties owned by senior Party and government officials. Enraged at what they considered as inadequate and unfair press coverage of their patriotic activities, they repeatedly demanded a free  press,  too.   

The slogans became more militant, more charged with emotions in the second phase — when the hunger strike by more than a thousand students began on May 13, to protest the Chinese authorities' alleged go-slow approach to dialogue and their earlier reprobations of the movement. For instance, slogans like “Our nation's shame : news by foreigners, not our own press” and “People have the right to know all the facts, the right to discuss, participate and supervise state affairs” were added to the earlier ones.

In the third phase — after martial law was promulgated on May 20 — posters with anti-martial law slogans appeared all over Beijing, and asking Premier Li Peng to step down from his post. And after the military crackdown, naturally all sorts of angry protests and grief burst forth from the shocked students and people at large.”

Press Demanded Real Freedom

Liberation also commented on the coverage of the protests in the Chinese press, with which the demands for press freedom struck a chord:

“In an unprecedented action, a few hundred journalists joined the May 4th students' demonstrations with such slogans as “Strengthen press supervision to promote political reform” and “Support Qin Benli”. On May 9, China's journalists, taking their cue from the students, handed in a petition signed by 1,031 reporters and editors demanding talks with Party officials over the creation of a press law and freedom of the press. On May 16, about 10,000 reporters and editors in Beijing had their own street rally. One of the banners carried by People's Daily staff read “Press reform is a must”, while they chanted “People's Daily belongs to the people.” A new boldness was witnessed in the press coverage of the student unrest….

“The May 22-28 number of Beijing Review wrote editorially: “Undoubtedly, the propagation of Party and government policies and views and dissemination of socialist education among the people remains one of the major functions of the Chinese media. But it is equally and sometimes even more important for them to voice the people's opinions and desires. This is especially true in times when the Party and government are committing mistakes or stupidities. In a word, a socialist mass media should be an effective weapon with which the people can fight bureaucracy, corruption and other malpractices, as well as helping correct policy errors.”

Comrade VM On Tiananmen

Comrade Vinod Mishra, in a 1994 interview carried by Liberation, commented at length on the issues raised for socialism by the Tiananmen massacre:

“Socialist countries like Russia, East European countries ... by proletarian dictatorship they understood just the dictatorship. The other part, that means democracy for 90%, this question of socialist democracy was not perceived as an integral part of proletarian dictatorship. So other forces took up the question of democracy. In China also, this question has always been there …Tiananmen again represented the desire for democracy, and I think every ten years, or five years or seven years, we are witnessing some big people's movement, and if you don't take it up from within a socialist framework it will be taken up within a bourgeois framework….

“At present in China they are carrying out economic experiments and keeping intact the Communist Party's leadership -- this is something I do appreciate and as an experiment it is worth watching and studying. But the other aspect, the desire for democracy, is also present. China will witness some sort of democratic movement once again. A country cannot just survive on economic statistics.”

The Tank Man

On the day of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, ordinary Beijing civilians had rushed to the aid of the injured students. Rickshaw pullers had loaded the injured onto their vehicles to try and get them to a hospital. Outraged civilians had joined the protests and had also been injured and killed.

On June 5, 1989, the day after the massacre, civilians continued to show defiance to the army tanks and contingents which had occupied Beijing. An Associated Press photographer Jeff Widener captured on such protest. From a hotel balcony, he saw and photographed a man carrying shopping bags, who stepped in the path of tanks, waving his arms and refusing to move. The tanks tried to go around the man, but he kept stepping back into their path, and even climbed atop one tank for some moments, before he was removed. The iconic photograph of the anonymous “Tank Man” became a symbol of people’s courageous and unarmed resistance to power, everywhere.  

But while the “Tank Man” was lucky not to be injured on that occasion, others were not so lucky. In a recent reminiscence, Fang Zheng, who was one of the student protesters in 1989, has recalled how a tank rolled over him as he and other unarmed students retreated west along Changan Avenue after leaving Tiananmen Square. Zheng’s trouser leg was trapped in the tank’s wheels, and he was dragged along the ground before he managed to free himself - but not before his legs were badly injured.

In a statement on the massacre, issued on June 8, 1989, the CPIML Liberation Politburo had said: “We hope that the CPC will now deeply analyse the root cause behind the popular movement for democracy and initiate necessary political reforms to satisfy peoples’ heightened aspirations for democracy.”  

Thirty years later, we can analyse if the CPC lived up to that hope, and assess what is the state of democratic aspirations of students, workers, and minorities in today’s China.  

Marxist Student and Trade Union Activists: Tortured, Disappeared, Arrested

21-year-old sociology student Qiu Zhanxuan and leader of the Marxist Student Association at Peking University is missing. But he left behind a video predicting his disappearance.

A Washington Post report by Gerry Shih described the video and the Marxist student movement. We carry extensive excerpts from that report below, since it describes the kind of Marxist activism and trade union activity that the Chinese state today perceives as a threat and seeks to suppress and terrorise.

“The video opens with the 21-year-old sociology student facing the camera. His voice quivers as he recounts his interrogation — his humiliation — for days at the hands of Beijing police.

The officials pressured him to quit labor activism and drop out of Peking University, he says. They slapped him until blood streamed from his nose. They jammed headphones into his ears and played hours of propaganda at full volume.

On the last day, he alleges, they had him bend over a table naked and spread his buttocks, joking darkly that they would teach him how to insert a listening device.

This all happened on campus,” Qiu Zhanxuan seethes in the video he recorded in February after he said the police released him, temporarily, after a four-day ordeal. If I disappear,” he adds, “it’ll be because of them.”

Qiu disappeared April 29.

State security agents seized him that day from Beijing’s outskirts, his classmates say. Qiu’s offense? He was the leader of the Marxist student association at the elite Peking University, a communist of conscience who defied the Communist Party of China.

Over the past eight months, China’s ruling party has gone to extraordinary lengths to shut down the small club of students at the country’s top university. Peking University’s young Marxists drew the government’s ire after they campaigned for workers’ rights and openly criticized social inequality and corruption in China.

That alone was provocative. In recent years, China’s leaders have been highly sensitive to rumblings of labor unrest as the sputtering economy lays bare the divides between rich and poor — fissures that were formed, and mostly overlooked, during decades of white-hot growth.

But the source of the dissent carried an extra sting for the government. Peking University, after all, educates China’s best and brightest, the top 0.1 percent of the country’s high school graduates. And its rebellious young Marxists were doing something particularly embarrassing: They were standing up for disenfranchised workers against the state.

They were, in other words, emulating the early Communist Party itself….

…at least 21 members of Peking University’s Marxist society — including its slight but steely leader Qiu — have been placed under house arrest or have vanished altogether. Scores more are regularly hauled in for interrogation and live under constant surveillance. Months of clashes, five waves of arrests and an influx of plainclothes police have, at moments, turned a world-leading university into a surreal battleground.

The story of Peking University’s Marxist club — as told by four members who remain secretly active and spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety, their supporters, and a trove of writings and videos left by activists anticipating arrest — illustrates the anxious political atmosphere in China, where idealistic students who embrace the party’s own ideology can be suppressed just like any other political threat.

A young Mao Zedong found Marxist-Leninism when he worked in the campus library. Peking University’s students marched in the May 4, 1919, protests against Western colonialism, a seminal moment in Chinese political activism. The same school led the occupation of Tiananmen Square, 30 years ago in 1989, before the government sent in soldiers and tanks, killing hundreds, perhaps far more.

As China promoted dizzying free-market reforms in the 1990s, some Peking University students cut the other direction.

The Marxist association was formed in 2000 by students concerned about the economic dislocation and inequality already percolating around them.

In the years that followed, the students would travel weekly to textile and electronics factories in Beijing’s outskirts. They joined assembly lines and slept and ate in dormitories to taste life at the foot of society.
For many, it was an ideological crucible.

A Marxist student who asked to be identified as Lucy worked at a print factory moving books and applying labels in southeast Beijing. She spent 12-hour shifts doing repetitive motions thousands of times, until her back was sore and her legs numb.

She was lucky she didn’t have to provide for a family on the $300- to $450-a-month salaries like the workers beside her, she said.

“But it was precisely the experiencing and understanding of workers’ lives that put you on the path of actually practicing Marxism,” she said. “That painful suffering is the daily existence for 300 million Chinese.”

In 2013, the group established a “workers home” on campus modeled after the social club formed in the 1920s by the Communist Party founding father and Peking University alumnus Deng Zhongxia.

The young Marxists would offer night classes on labor law, play chess and dance with the university’s cafeteria workers and janitors. On May Day and at year-end, students recalled, as many as 400 university workers would show up and sing “The Internationale” or early communist songs such as “The Ballad of the Anyuan Road Miners” that commemorated Mao organizing a 1922 strike.

Their membership swelled, too, to include humanities majors, medical students and budding scientists.

There was Zhan Zhenzhen, who was raised in a brick hut in Henan province by a single mother and didn’t know what staggering wealth looked like until he arrived in Beijing. There was Yue Xin, the daughter of a well-off Beijing family who brought the #MeToo movement to national attention in China.

And there was Qiu, their leader, who arrived on a rare full scholarship in 2016 after he won the gold medal in the national Chemistry Olympiad.

…Last July, the students got word that workers at a welding equipment plant near Shenzhen, called Jasic Technology, were struggling to form an independent union and clashing with factory bosses and police.

About 50 students traveled south to help, not just from Peking University but also from Renmin and Tsinghua universities in Beijing and schools in southern and eastern China. Cramming into a large apartment, they churned out online essays that got hundreds of supportive responses. At night, they rallied Jasic workers in the streets with megaphones.

Their triumph was short-lived.

On Aug. 24, police in riot gear raided their apartment, leading to a brief scuffle before dozens of students and workers were detained. Most were released, but four went missing, including Yue, the prominent feminist….
As the number of missing students ticked up in recent months, those who still had freedom prepared “open letters” to be published in case they were seized. The remaining Marxists, coordinating in secret, recently started releasing the letters at a slow drip.

They saved Qiu’s video and letter to release on May 4, on the anniversary of the protest that inspired their Communist revolutionary heroes a century ago.

Qiu’s letter defiantly recounted his personal life and his experiences with the police. “The deeper the persecution, the greater the blows, the more hatred one remembers in his heart,” he wrote.

In the accompanying video, Qiu seems more vulnerable. He ponders what kind of abuse workers who challenge government authority must suffer in prison, and whether he might join them himself. But his voice hardens by the end of the three-minute recording.

“We’ll fight together, advance and retreat together,” Qiu says, and then raises a clenched fist.”

The violence by the Chinese state against courageous and idealist young Marxist activists like Qiu is inexcusable. How can a socialist regime have the least moral authority left if it criminalises working class and student activism? To say that such activism is “unauthorised” by the CPC or the state is ridiculous: even in a socialist country, can any anti-capitalist protests that require “sanction” and “permission” be genuine protests at all?   

China has been able to prevent the reenactment of protests on the scale and severity of Tiananmen. But China is still haunted by the spectre of Tiananmen. And the democratic spirit of Tiananmen lives on in the student activists who brave atrocities to assert their right to be Marxists and communists in socialist China.

Long Live The Tiananmen Square Martyrs!  

Long Live Revolutionary Student Activism In China!

Stop police brutality in Hong Kong! No extradition to China!

(Joint statement issued on 14 June 2019, by 52 left groups and parties in various countries including CPIML)

WE, the undersigned organisations, are deeply concerned about the high-handed approach by the Hong Kong government in dealing with the recent mass protests against the proposed extradition bill.

We condemn the use of unprecedented excessive force by the Hong Kong police in dispersing and arresting protesters. The use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and bean bag rounds, as well as beating up unarmed protesters have caused injuries to many. Such brutality is unacceptable.

Despite the massive peaceful demonstration on 9 June, the largest since the handover of Hong Kong to China, the Hong Kong government led by Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor continues to ignore the demands of the people. In fact, the refusal of the Hong Kong government to listen to the people’s demands and its insistence in pushing the extradition bill has ignited and expanded the protests.

In recent years, the shrinking of political space and the Hong Kong government’s increasingly aggressive behaviour in curtailing civil and political freedom has become a worrying trend in Hong Kong. Many political dissidents and activists have been targeted for arrests and selected prosecution with various allegations. The erosion of democratic freedom in Hong Kong also instils the fear that Hong Kong is losing its unique autonomy with the expansion of Beijing’s political control over the city. Deterioration of political freedom will definitely hinder efforts to tackle social inequalities in a city with a widening wealth gap.

Hong Kong is the only city in China which can still freely commemorate the June Fourth massacre. To protect Hong Kong autonomy is thus not only the concern of the people of Hong Kong but also of all the people of China.

We urge the government of Hong Kong to:

– withdraw the proposed extradition bill;

– stop the violence against peaceful protesters;

– stop the repression and persecution of political activists.

We stand with the people of Hong Kong and express our solidarity with their fight to defend their political freedom and autonomy.


No to 'Deal of the century'!

Stand with Palestine and its struggle against Israeli military occupation!

CPIML Liberation strongly condemns the move by United States, Israel and Gulf countries to destroy the Palestinian cause of asserting their right of return to lands occupied by Israel, by pushing forward the ‘deal of the century’. These countries are planning to hold Bahrain economic summit, scheduled to begin on June 25 to implement a series of ‘economic measures’ for Palestine, which in reality aims at forwarding the Israel’s nefarious agenda of complete annexation Jerusalem. The deal is an attempt by the US and Israel to to coerce the Palestinian people and resistance movements to surrender their struggle against Israeli occupation for money.

This deal comes as Israel continues to massacre unarmed civilians at the Great March of Return protests in Gaza. More than 180 Palestinians, including children, women, paramedics and journalists have been killed by Israeli forces at the Great March for Return in last one year.  Israeli forces also continue to raid and abduct Palestinians, including children on a daily basis in West Bank.

CPIML stands firm with the Palestinian people and the movements in rejection of this deal. We also reiterate our solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle for the right of return and against Israeli military occupation.

No to India’s pro-Israel policy shift!

By voting in favour of Israel in the UN, Modi 2.0 Gov has indicated it's foreign policy shift towards Israel betraying India's long-standing policy of supporting the Palestinian people against Israeli colonisation and occupation is condemnable.

Israel imposes apartheid on the Palestinian people and unleashes terror against Palestinians who resist occupation. India's vote for Israel signals the Modi regime's open endorsement of such apartheid and terror. India's ruling BJP and its parent organisation, the fascist RSS, see Israel as a model for their goal of a 'Hindu Nation’.

All opposition parties and democratic organisations in India must oppose this shift in India's foreign policy. We must, together, demand that India must not side with Israel in international fora on any pretext in matters of Palestinian people's struggles against Israel occupation.

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