Learning from the Past

Tomorrow is the 20th Anniversary of the bloody massacre of the June 4th Incident. Many didn’t know this – the real assult actually began at 10:30pm on June 3rd. It was a long night of violence and bloodshed (and confusion). By 6am on June 4th, the protesters had been cleared and the Chinese reclaimed back the square. To many, the Tiananman Incident was a terrible sin committed by the Chinese Communist.

Before we joined the millions of free-thinkers and peace-lovers, condemning the bloody massacre which took place 20 years ago, we have to take a 2nd perspective at the incident. Let’s not be affected or influenced by the numbers of people who died there that night. Over the last week, a minority of protesters setup roadshows to promote campaign of awareness about June 4th. I respected their effort but frown on their messages. It was setup in a sensational manner, evoking hatred amongst the innocent minds, screening bloody images of dead bodies and emotional messages. They wanted us to remember this date when thousands of innocent students and civilians died. It was cruel, I admit. But many failed to see the bigger picture.

I am one of those lucky souls who managed to get the real-life account from a real Tiananman survivor. He was 19 and he led 100 students from Shanghai to lend their hands and voice to the call for reform in Beijing.

China was a hungry giant 20 years ago. A gathering (on 15th April) that was meant to mourn for a passing leader, Hu Yaobang, grew into a stronghold of protesters who wanted to bring change to the Chinese Government – unfortunately – that leading to a bloody crackdown on 4th June. For the first 2-3 weeks, the students held peaceful protest and even sat side by side with the soldiers. The Beijing residents were sympathetic towards the young soldiers and students, they even cooked and provided clean clothings for them. The youth back then loved their nation, they wanted new change in their country. Soldiers, students and civilians mingled together as one. All the students and workforce demanded was a dialogue with the "leaders" to change the system.

However, it was a messy situation where there was no clear leadership and demands from the masses. The procastination of the Chinese leaders didn’t help too. They were in their own internal conflicts. You have Deng and Li Peng on one camp and Zhao on the other. Even the military had different opinion about the situations. As the number of protesters grew over the entire China (not just Beijing), the situations went out of control. Suddenly, overnight, there were hidden agendas amongst the protesters. What was a simple and pure reform protest had evolved into something bigger. The influx of western media and government influence only fueled the panic of the Chinese Government. Suddenly, there were new groups of students prompting others to commit suicide for the "love" of their countries. There were some students walking around with "American VISA" issued by the US Embassy, promoting other students to fight the Chinese Government – they claimed they will be protected by the American Government. There wasn’t the original unity and single-minded reform call. It was a chaotic time of desperations, confusions and frustrations. 1 week before the bloody incident, there were calls to bring down the central government – it was an agenda that some of the students didn’t agree. They wanted reform, but they never want to tear their country apart.

Knowing the situation was getting out of control, my friend decided to bring his students back to Shanghai. He left the square on the 2nd of June. If he had left 24 hours later, he would have lost his life there. The soldiers were no longer sitting side by side with the students. In fact, during the final days, the soldiers were begging the students to go home. The soldiers knew "something" was going to happen but most of their pleas went unheard. The army even flew chopters over the square, dropped flyers, telling the students and civilians to go home.

The 1st casualties of June 4th weren’t the students. They were the innocent police and army officers. As the situations got tense over the final week before the crackdown, a group of protesters attacked the soldiers and policemen. Many officers were burned to death.  From a logical and peaceful demonstration, the crowd was becoming more violent and insane. The crowd was planning to take down the entire government. Some students set themselves on fire for western media to cover. Hundreds went on deadly hunger strike. These student leaders were abusing "democracy" to justify their senseless actions (didn’t that sound like how some extreme minds used religions for the right to kill!?).

Given a situation like this, the Chinese government was faced with limited choice. The world was expecting the government to bow down. Taking a swift and deadly gamble, the Chinese troops took out all the protesters with full force. Within 8 hours, the crowd was compromised and hundreds, if not thousands lives were lost that night.

It was an unpopular move. But this is one way to keep a Giant intact. China, 20 years ago, cannot afford to have any civil unrest or worst, civil wars. If the demonstration was successful and there was no succession of power, it will crippled the entire nation into a lawless state. Billion of lives will be at stake and millions lives will be lost in the process to put "the right power" back in place. We need evolutionary changes to achieve revolutionary result. And not creating revoluntionary changes to achieve an evolutionary move.

Look at the previous successful demostrations in Indonesia and Thailand. When the Indonesian government was taken down by a group of "new AGE people" (who claimed to know how to run a better country), the entire country went into chaos! For weeks, you have different camps of leaders who claimed authority in this State of Lawlessness. Riots, rapes, murders took over. The already corrupted police and army were simply helpless in the process. Jobs were lost, houses were torn down, schools were torched and many lives were lost. So, ask yourself, what good did the demonstraters gain in the end. They won the government but they failed to take over the leadership. Now looking at Thailand, how many more changes of heads are required before we see another golden era of Thailand!  

Some of my associates have often laughed at USA for being the stupid "world big brother". Certainly, I do see the need for a World Leader. For balance and stability. The absence of one such leader will only lead us back to the days of power-struggle between neighbours. Without a clear leader, middle-sized countries would want to exert their presences in different regions. Imagine the old days right after the colonist left… didn’t we enter a time of internal / cross border conflicts. And clearly, for the sake of the smaller and weaker nations, let’s keep the annoying USA presence alive.  

The June 4th Incident was an unfortunate (unavoidable) event but it did help to prevent a bigger and more serious issue that we cannot contain. Look at China today, it has moved forward and opened up vastly and fast. It is making leaps to the economic reforms beyond what the masses were dreaming back then. Looking back, the heroes didn’t died in vain. They did brought change to the country they loved so dearly. However, this will be a ongoing process for many generation to come.

Sadly, we were all disturbed by the alarming death toll of June 4th. If this is a number game, please pay attention to this death toll of the Irap War. Clearly, no one beats the US-led force who is still in Iraq with a "daily live death toll", now up to 4,306 military death (not to mention about the innocent civilians who lost their lives too). Shouldn’t we use our right energy to put a stop to something that we still can prevent?

(p.s. My heart goes to those who have lost their innocent lives fighting for the one thing they believed in. You didn’t died in vain.)

2 Responses to Learning from the Past

  1. Thomas Chua says:

    I have to make a few corrections here, as a Chinese Indonesian, I am aware of both the events in May 1998 in here, and the Tiananmen 1989 over there. While you do have a point in the chaos than ensued here in the days BEFORE Suharto was brought down from power, the chaos resulted not from the lack of leadership or anything as such, we already have the future presidents and leaders of the parliament backing up the students and people who are protesting, there were Gus Dur /Abdurrachman Wahid, the would be elected president, and Megawati Sukarnoputri, the next president after Gus Dur, and Amien Rais, who in the next year would be chosen as leader of the parliament. The protesters here already have an agenda about how to make the nation more democratic and such, different factions were ready to build new political parties to replace the quasi-one-state-party that they replace, that’s why in the years, or indeed months, after the fall of Suharto, there were never more a big incident, until the emergence of the Islamic Radicalist in the mid 2000s

    Yes, you might be asking now, why the chaos then? the rape and massacre etc. was provoked and invoked by the corrupt politicians and army leaders, because their wealth depends on the power of Suharto, they want to intimidate the people into believing that Suharto is needed to stabilize the nation (while it is clear now that such is not the case here) as you would know if you try to find some articles about the 13-15 May 1998 riots, that witnesses report of people with army-cut hari provoking the gullible masses into chasing and burning Chinese-owned stores and houses (and remember that these are Suharto’s Cronies doing shit).

    And of course, one thing that you wouldn’t know is that Chinese here in Indonesia was persecuted by the Suharto’s Regime (unofficially, but perpetrated by his cronies) that we are at fault for the G30S/PKI incident or the poor state of the economy of the people, so that his regime would always have a scapegoat when something goes wrong, and yes these are concerning your own brothers and sister in Indonesia, as we were victims of the government, prohibited to speak Chinese in public, or celebrating Xin Jia, or even having a Chinese Name, and the reform brought us freedom, we now are allowed to put in our ID card our chinese name rather than an Indonesianized name, and it brought a more even development between Jakarta and the Provinces, and had Suharto remained in power, his corrupt and weak-based economical development would collapse once again in 2008 as it did in 1997, while our nation now boast the highest development in South East Asia, and was dealt the most minimized blow in Asia when the 2008 Meltdown striked, and even PRC and Japan didn’t do as well as we do in terms of recovery in 2008, yes we still see problems in our nation, but it is normal, no state is perfect (unlike what the CCP believe they are), and the most important thing is that we are able to check our own government about its own power, and yes we Chinese here also enjoys freedom of religion and culture, and one of us even hold a seat of ministry under SBY, and another under Gus Dur, all in all, the reform of 1998 brought to us much more stability of power and economy, and of course the reconciliation of the indigenous people and the Chinese immigrants.

  2. Pingback: VIIV – 22 years later « THE WAHBIANG BLOG

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