Tag Archives: Tiananmen

If you have to ask for whom the fat lady sings, it is not for Tahrir Square.

–And to really mix my malaprops, she sings for them that bought her. If there was one variable which got away from the underdogs of Egypt’s Jan25 Revolution, it was who would referee the endgame. While Hosni Mubarak’s stunning defiance Thursday night looked like a Hail Mary pass hoping to provoke the protesters to mayhem, as a defensive strategy he was moving the goalposts. Anticipating a capitulation, the Tahrir Square demonstrators made clear it was the entire regime which needed ousting, no Suleiman, no Emergency Law, an inviolate list of demands. Mubarak’s insulting buffoonery focused the great beast’s wrath like a rodeo clown. When the announcement came he was stepping down, who could not help but raise a cheer, drowning out the earlier precautions. Mubarak played Egypt like a fiddle, as he burned it, while the fat lady of state media called the game over.

It’s not over until the fat lady sings
So opera advises American football, in reality a game governed strictly by elapsed time. The expression describes the mutual sense that every competition has a natural denouement. Actually another false notion, as this feeling is not often shared by the side fallen behind at the final score.

I’ve convoluted ask not for whom the bell tolls– and if you have to ask how much it costs–, Hemingway and Bugatti I believe, to stress the obvious, that Wagnerian sopranos are kept in furs by the wealthiest of patrons. As epic as might be your struggle, unless you transcend the stage to torch the theater, the status quo raises and lowers the curtain. Without seizing the state media, if even that had been possible, and without staging a narrative to compete with Mubarak’s Greekest of tragic high dives, the Tahrir Square revolutionaries became mere players to please the king.

How could we have missed the grand theatricality of Mubarak’s televised last stands, lighting and makeup dialed to Bela Lugosi? Anyone who knows to dramatize a campfire tale by holding a flashlight under his chin also knows they don’t do that for their profile pic.

In all three of his televised responses to the Jan25 reformers, Mubarak could be paraphrased to have said “over my dead body.” It was a road map his adversaries probably should have heeded. Where is Mubarak now? He’s not gone, he hasn’t even left Egypt. We are informed Mubarak has stepped down by the same henchmen who told protesters “all your demands will be met,” then meeting none.

We learn now that Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Military is trying to clear Tahrir Square. It’s outlawing those who would cause chaos and disorder, and forbidding labor unions to assemble or strike. It’s refusing to end Egypt’s emergency law, or to release the unknown thousand detained during the protests. What of Suleiman and the regime’s other cronies? We have only Mubarak’s doppelganger in an army cap. Field Marshall “Happy” Tantawi, takes to the microphone with no other agenda it appears than to restore Egypt its accustomed sonorous normalcy. If Tibetan throat-singing has an antecedent we can wager now it was Pharaoh throat-talking.

Dance with the one who brought you
A mantra worth cursing out, when Americans wonder why their elected representatives answer only to their biggest campaign donors. So why would Egypt’s Jan25 upstarts have banked on winning the cooperation of the army? I almost said “their” army, but it’s bought and paid for by Mubarak, actually by the same interests who buy US politicians. Deciding not to challenge the army spared lives, but it’s left the military regime in place. Regime unchanged.

There’s a problem when you harness the protection of the military without knowing the intentions of its leaders. You can win a nonviolent revolution against the schoolyard bully if you’ve got the deterrence of “My Bodyguard,” but when the army does that on a national scale it’s called a “bloodless coup.” I’d be curious to know if nonviolence cultists rank bloodless coups among behaviors they condone.

Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement, chief instigators of the Jan25 uprising, attribute much of their organizing skill to training with OTPOR, the famously successful Serbian youth rebellion which ousted a Balkan despot. OTPOR is now a “pro-Democracy” consultant group that tours the world to awaken nascent freedom-seeking insurgents aspiring to popular uprisings. OTPOR refutes insinuations rising from the disclosure that it has accepted CIA funding, but curiously OTPOR is more often by happenstance advising malcontents in Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador, Iran, the usual outspoken rivals to US hegemony. What are they doing in Egypt? Had Hosni Mubarak gone rogue and we didn’t know it?

When pan-Arabists think of events in Tunisia and Egypt igniting popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, there’s a line to draw between the common dictators and those more hostile to the West, whose rule is autocratic by necessity of having to defend against CIA and Mossad activities designed to foment instability.

Whether against anti-US foes or pro, it might be safe to say that OTPOR talks a good game, without having yet had a victory. They too deposed a dictator, but not his regime. The problem with OTPOR’s advice has to do with the end game.

I sat in on an OTPOR seminar once. They make a yearly visit to Colorado College to lecture for the nonviolence program. At the conclusion of one lecture I witnessed a tremendously telling aside, which emerged during the Q&A, and definitely wasn’t in the nonviolence syllabus. I wonder if the A6YM got the memo.

This presenter, a veteran of the student uprising that deposed Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, contended that after this victory for Democracy, etc, etc, after the attention span of the media had moved on, the same Milosevic cronies who’d been driven to the shadows, assassinated the opposition leaders and crept right back to power. His lesson, a mere thesis, which I paraphrase to reflect his muted emphasis: we should maybe have taken it one step further and made sure to kill the fuckers.

A6YM is still gambling they can separate the lower ranks of the army from the brass. If Robert Fisk’s report that Egyptian tank commanders refused January 30 orders to make a Tiananmen Square out of Tahrir, there may still be hope in such a strategy. But it certainly won’t work if no one will announce that it has worked. If a tyrant falls in the forest and no one hears, his rule doesn’t fall. The funeral cortege of Genghis Khan killed everyone in its path to keep word of his death from spreading across the empire until his successor could consolidate power. If you’re not going to push him off the cliff literally, perhaps Slavoj Zizek is right to say you’ve got to create a Tom and Jerry moment where despots like Mubarak see that there is no longer any foundation beneath him, where visualizing his own demise brings it upon himself. But can that be done without having director’s cut over the narrative?

What kind of farce are we perpetuating to pretend that Hosni Mubarak must be granted a dignified exit? What dignity commanded firing on unarmed protesters? Are we to pretend men who torture to retain their power can be cajoled to release it?

Instead, the Egyptian rebels find themselves with no ground beneath their feet, their “victorious revolution” now a meme being used to rally dissenters against America’s chief adversary Iran.

If others can kill, Israel wants permit too

Israeli idf propaganda newspaper adJune 6th is the 42nd anniversary of Israel’s seizure of Gaza. At right is a UK newspaper ad placed by the Anti-Defamation League, one of Israel’s myriad damage control engines, when UK students were calling to boycott Israel over its attacks in Gaza. 400,000 killed in Sudan, so Israel should get a pass on its 1,300 victims in Gaza? It sounds like the IDF expects allowances to be made for its periodic ethnic cleansing, permits maybe, like polluters trade carbon credits. The US Humane Society euthanizes 5.4 million dogs every year, no doubt it’s just a double standard to demonize Israel for bagging their 1,300 in Gaza.

Where there are fingers pointing at Sudan, there are Zionists diverting attention from their final Palestinian solution. No one’s crying GENOCIDE in Darfur, calling for military intervention against the Muslim regime but Israel, the US and George Clooney.

I just read an eyewitness recollection of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, published on this 20th anniversary, by a reporter who went on to fault China less for its human rights transgressions than for Chinese investments in Sudan and Iran. Sudan? IRAN? What was an evocative historical account began to smell of Zionist agitation… Of course the WSJ columnist turned out to be a “conservative” who also labels those who stand up for Palestinian rights as anti-Semites.

China’s Olympic image makeover redux

Beijing 1989 Tiananmen Square
I replaced the dancing figure in China’s Olympic emblem with the red motorcycle crushed by tanks at the Tiananmen Square Massacre.

The heavy red outline around the figure above the official Beijing 2008 logo resembles a Chinese written character, but it could also be blood pooled around the chalk outline of a body.
beijing-olympic-tibet-shame.jpg
Here’s what some activist artists conceived for an Olympic logo to commemorate the Chinese repression of Tibet. They placed massacred Buddhist monks around the red seal. They could just as easily be referring to the monks killed in Burma by the authoritarian military junta which is supported by China.

Support the Troops, and vice versa?

Beijing Spring 1989Do you remember the Beijing Spring of 1989? Students were protesting China’s authoritarian regime occupied Tiananmen Square and for a time successfully won over the soldiers sent in to expel them. Do you remember the images? Waves of People’s Liberation Army soldiers arrived, but as students and supporters blocked their way and pleaded with them not to brutalize their fellow citizens, the soldiers would join them, some even helping to persuade the next soldiers.

Civilian appeals to soldierUltimately we know the tanks came in. The Chinese leadership used hardened soldiers from the outlying territories, whose dialect was different from the Han Mandarin spoken in Beijing, who had more indoctrination than education, and were thus less susceptible to the entreaties of the demonstrators. Those troops ultimately beat and killed untold numbers of the protesters. Executions and imprisonments followed for the organizers who survived.

COLORADO SPRINGS- In what’s become the US totalitarian means of suppressing protest at past conventions and the FTAA, law enforcement manpower is supplemented by a state’s National Guard. The US military commanders responsible for securing the upcoming August DNC are preparing their soldiers to feel no sympathy for the street rabble they will have to confront. They know not to let their men succumb to sympathy for the nonviolent DNC antiwar demonstrators.

From what rural parts of Colorado does our National Guard plan to draw its ranks to ensure its soldiers won’t have anything in common with progressive/intellectual/working-class activists? Well, Colorado Springs of course!

Student is beatenThis is where the SUPPORT THE TROOPS mantra might begin to feel odd. Common people support their troops, but do the troops support the people? That’s hardly their training. Supervised by military intelligence trainers and contractors for the tasks of crowd control, the National Guard is conditioned to steel themselves against civil disobedience. It will behoove demonstration organizers to reach out to the guard community ahead of time, to communicate the message of peaceful patriotism we’ll be advocating in the streets.

Tiananmen Square before Olympic spirit

Beijing 2008 boycott
Human rights activists are crying foul about China’s role in Tibet and Burma. Here’s a illustrated time-line of the events which led to the totalitarian repression of the Tiananmen protests of 1989. Reprinted from Christus Rex.

Beijing Spring -A look back at the 1989 Spring that impacted a nation. Visit original website to see archival video footage from the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather.

April 15
Hu YaobangFormer Communist Party chief Hu Yaobang, a leading reformist, dies of a heart attack at the age of 73. Students at Beijing University put up posters praising Hu that indirectly criticize the opponents who forced his resignation following student demonstrations in 1986-87.
 

Students marchApril 17
Thousands of students march in Beijing and Shanghai shouting “long live Hu Yaobang, long live democracy, long live freedom, long live the rule of law.”
 

 

April 18
2,000 students from Beijing bicycle into Tiananmen Square and protest before the Great Hall of the People. Student leaders, including Wang DanIncluded in their demands for democratic reforms is the repudiation of official campaigns against freedom of the press.

April 21
Crowds of up to 100,000 demonstators gather in Tiananmen Square to mourn Hu.
Policeman supporting students

April 22
Students defy police orders to leave the square, while riots break out in the provincial capitals of Xian and Changsha. Official memorial ceremonies are held for Hu at the Great Hall of the People.

Student strike at Beijing University
 
 
 
April 23
Beijing students announce a boycott of university classes.
 

April 24
Tens of thousands of students at Beijing universities go on strike, demanding a dialog with the government.

Student rally in the squareApril 27
Bolstered by broad-based support, more than 150,000 students surge past police lines and fill Tiananmen Square, chanting slogans for democracy and freedom.

April 29
Government officials meet with student leaders, but independent student groups say they will continue a class boycott at 41 university campuses in Beijing.

May 2
6,000 students march in Shanghai.

May 4
100,000 students and supporters march on Tiananmen square to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Student hunger strike China’s first student movement, while similar demonstrations are held in Shanghai, Nanjing and other cities. 300 journalists protest outside the official Xinhua News Agency.

May 9
Journalists petition the government for freedom of the press.

May 13
2,000 students begin a hunger strike in Tiananmen Square.

Rally on the eve of GorbachevMay 15
Government deadline for students to leave the square comes and goes. A welcoming ceremony for Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s state visit is moved to the airport.

tienanmen-12-rally.jpgMay 16
Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators occupy the square.

May 18
One million people march in support of the hunger strikers. Li PengLi Peng, Premier of the State Council, issues a stern warning to student leaders and refuses to discuss their demands.

May 19
Zhoa ZiyangA tearful Zhao Ziyang, China’s General Secretary, makes a pre-dawn visit to weakened hunger strikers. Li also visits the students briefly. In the evening the students decide to end the hunger strike, but quickly change their mind when Li and President Yang Shangkun announce martial law. Zhao reportedly resigns or is ousted from power after failing to convince Li and others to compromise.

Yang ShangkunMay 20, 1989
Chinese authorities ‘pull the plug’ on Dan Rather who is reporting live from Beijing.

May 28
About 80,000 people (mostly students from outside the capital) demonstrate but, unlike past rallies, few workers participate.
Goddess of Democracy
May 30
Students unveil their “Goddess of Democracy,” a replica of the Statue of Liberty, on the square. The government calls it an insult to the nation.

May 31
Farmers and workers stage the first of several pro-government rallies in Beijing’s suburbs.

June 1
The Beijing Municipal Government bans all foreign press coverage of the demonstrations.

June 3
Tens of thousands of troops advance on the city shortly after midnight, but are repulsed by residents who put up barricades. PLA troops stopped by civilians By the afternoon 5,000 troops appear outside the Great Hall of the People, but are again surrounded and stopped. In the final assault that evening, troops shoot and beat their way to the square.

Taping the beginnings of the massacre, correspondent Richard Roth is arrested.

June 4
Troops occupy the square and smash the “Goddess of Democracy” with tanks. The shooting continues with soldiers periodically firing on crowds gathered on the outskirts of the square. Residents set fire to more than 100 military trucks and armored personnel carriers. The government claims the “counterrevolutionary riots” have been suppressed. Meanwhile, riots break out in southwestern Chengdu.

Richard Roth is released and reports further on the night’s violence.
PLA troops confront civilians
June 5
There are reports of clashes between rival military groups around Beijing. President Bush condemns the “bloody and violent” crackdown and orders a suspension of U.S. military sales and contacts with the Chinese government.

June 5, 1989
Richard Roth reports: one anonymous man stops a column of 18 tanks.
Wounded civilian
June 6
Foreign embassies advise their nationals to leave China. The government says 300 people were killed and 7,000 injured in the crackdown, but claims most of the dead were soldiers. There are more reports of clashes between military units. Six people are killed in Shanghai when a train runs through a barricade. The U.S. State Department announces that dissident Fang Lizhi and his wife have sought refuge in the U.S. Embassy.
An advancing tank
June 7
Troops, responding to what they say is sniper fire, shoot into a foreign diplomatic compound. The United States and other governments order the mandatory evacuation of dependents of diplomatic personnel.

June 8
Premier Li Peng appears in public for the first time since the crackdown to congratulate troops.
Deng Xiaoping
June 9
China’s leader Deng Xiaoping appears for the first time since May 16. In a speech to military officers he blames the turmoil on counterrevolutionaries attempting to overthrow communism.

Motorcycle crushed by a tankJune 10
Beijing authorities announce the arrest of more than 400 people, including student and labor leaders.

June 11
The government issues a warrant for the arrest of Fang Lizhi and his wife, saying they committed crimes of “counterrevolutionary propaganda and instigation.” Fang Lizhi

June 12
The government bans all independent student and labor organizations and says police and soldiers should shoot all “rioters and counterrevolutionaries.”PLA tank on patrol

June 13
The government issues a wanted list for 21 student activists who led the democracy movement.
Student leader Wang Dan

June 14
China orders the expulsion of Associated Press reporter John Pomfret and Voice of America Bureau Chief Alan Pessin.

June 15
Three Shanghai men are sentenced to death for burning a train that ran over protesters. The nationwide arrest total reaches above 1,000.
Soldiers seen through window of burned vehicle
June 17
A Beijing court sentences eight people to death for attacking soldiers and burning vehicles during the June 3-4 assault.

June 18
Politburo member Qiao Shi appears prominently in the official media, adding to speculation the party security man will replace Zhao.

A burned tank
June 20
The government nullifies all exit permits in an apparent attempt to stop fugitives from leaving the country.