Sunday, February 27, 2011

Arab's Tiananmen and China's Jasmine

Ever since 1989, "Tiananmen" has become a catch-word depicting governments' suppressing and massacring their own people, or even the possibility of it, whenever and wherever a popular uprising occurs. The year of 2011 is no exception.

Almost as soon as people in Tunisia marched on the streets, the appearance of the word "Tiananmen" in world news skyrocketed. Fortunately, such dire predictions did not materialize there. In Egypt, tanks did roll on streets and in Tahrir Square. In most likelihood, a repeat of Tiananmen was averted only in the last minutes when soldiers disobeyed a direct order from Mubarak. Scores of protesters did perish there, but not as a result of direct military involvement.

It was a Libya the situation got much dicier. The reference to Tianamen gained a degree of formality when the dictator there, Muammar Gaddafi, made a direct link in one of his odd-ball speeches. In his immortal words, he invoked that history to justify his own stance:
People in front of tanks were crushed. The unity of China was more important than those people on Tiananmen Square.

When Tiananmen Square happened, tanks were sent in to deal with them. It's not a joke. I will do whatever it takes to make sure part of the country isn't taken away.
As his people died in the hands of government troops in his "whatever it takes," the United Nation Security Council debated on how to deal with the atrocity. China, a permanent member of the council with veto power and the origin nation of the Tiananmen massacre, was put on a peculiar position. After some initial hesitation, China reluctantly joined the rest of the world to refer the Gadhafi regime to the International Criminal Court and impose sanctions to the country.

Perhaps the only location of uprising without a link to Tiananmen is at Madison, Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the term "Jasmine Revolution," derived from the initial uprising in Tunisia, became a sensitive word in China. There has been chatters in China's twitter world that flashmob-style gatherings were called for in many cities there first on Sunday, 2/20, and then again on 2/27. Large-scale crowd failed to materialize on either occasion. But the buzz was loud enough to attract the attention of international media and, perhaps inadvertently, the US Ambassador.

Nobody has formally come out to take the credit or responsibility of the twitter activity yet, although it is increasingly clear that it had originated from the oversea Chinese dissident community instead of the younger generation in China as it was initially reported. Indeed, one of the 1989 student leaders, Liu Gang, had claimed being the originator in an Internet forum and accused others for hijacking and misleading the "revolution." Other exiled 1989 student leaders, including Wang Dan, Wuer Kaixi, and Wang Juntao, have also been active in propagating the messages in their social network circles. Wuer Kaixi joined a supporting protest by a dozen or so people in Taiwan and Wang Juntao sang the "Jasmine song," literally, at the Times Square in New York City.

So far, the ones who took this so-called "Jasmine Revolution" in China seriously are the Chinese authorities, who are busy blocking related web traffic and employing various tactics to prevent public gatherings in city centers. The police have far out-numbered the onlookers at the scenes.

But there are real and far more serious threats behind the scenes. More than a dozen human rights activists have been detained by police in recent days. Their involvement, or the lack thereof, to the phantom revolution is so far unclear. In the most serious cases, a leading blog writer, Ran Yunfei (冉云飞), and others are being charged with subversion or inciting subversion, convenient crimes for government to charge dissidents in recent years. They will be facing lengthy sentences.


queue said...

Good summary. Wish you had more details on China's Jasmine.

Anonymous said...

There is an entry at Wikipedia on Jasmine_Revolution, including a long paragraph on China's Jasmine.

The Jasmine protests indeed bear a strong connection and many similarities to the Tiananmen square wake 22 years ago. Nice article, Eddie.