June 4, 2007


Hong Kong remembers Tiananmen (Keith Bradsher, June 4, 2007, International Herald Tribune)

In Hong Kong, the killings in Beijing in 1989 were once again a subject of active discussion since remarks three weeks ago by Ma Lik, chairman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong.

Ma said on May 15 that people in Hong Kong lacked patriotic devotion to China because they believed that the Communist Party had massacred people at Tiananmen Square.

Ma contended that Hong Kong residents were too willing to believe versions of events in 1989 that were released by "gweilos," a slightly derogatory term for Westerners.

He then suggested that the city would not be ready to be granted full democracy by Beijing until 2022 as a result. [...]

Ma described his remarks a day later as "rash and frivolous," but maintained his position that no massacre had taken place. He did not answer calls to his cellphone last month or on Monday.

The public debate over Ma's remarks appeared to help the turnout at Monday evening's vigil. Organizers put the crowd at 55,000 people, while the police said it was 27,000, the most to attend the annual vigil since 2004, when organizers estimated a turnout of 82,000 people and the police of 38,000. Organizers estimated last year's crowd at 44,000, while the police put it at 19,000.

The 2004 vigil drew an extremely large crowd because Hong Kong was nearing the end of a yearlong flourishing of pro-democracy sentiment then triggered by the local government's unsuccessful attempt to introduce a stringent internal security law.

Yip Wingki, a 32-year-old salesman, said he had not attended any previous vigils but came to the vigil Monday and brought his 7-year-old son because he was offended by Ma's remarks.

"He warped the truth totally," Yip said as his son sleepily held a lit candle in the sweltering heat.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the Roman Catholic bishop of Hong Kong and a senior adviser to the Vatican on China policy, denounced the 1989 crackdown at a small prayer meeting held in the same large park as the vigil but an hour earlier.

"Our comrades who were shot to death in Tiananmen Square and the surrounding streets were very patriotic and they came forward to chastise corrupt people in power and to ask for a push toward democracy," he said. "The violent response took away those young lives and assigned them the criminal label of being rioters. This is a great shame on our country's history."

It was easy enough to just cut taxes later, but George H. W. Bush's failure to intervene in China during Tiananmen can't be undone.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 4, 2007 3:47 PM

What exactly should Bush1 have done?

Posted by: Really? at June 4, 2007 7:09 PM


It was what the elder Bush did, as much as what he didn't do, that was disgraceful and harmed American interests and the cause of Chinese liberty. Only six months after Tiananmen, he sent Bret Scowcroft to China to toast the architects of the massacre.

By this act, Bush showed the hard-line Deng Xiaoping and his supporters that America cared far more about making money than about supporting freedom. It didn't matter that following the realist tradition, Bush was probably more worried about political instability than about trade and profits.

Couple this with the other common impression among Chinese that Americans are too decadent, too impatient, and too fearful of casualities to fight a long war, and you can begin to see why so many Chinese continue to hold America in contempt and why they believe a confident China is destined to overtake a self-doubting America.

Just as the German Nazis and the Imperial Japanese had been, the Chinese were and are wrong about America. But both by his actions and inactions in the wake of Tiananmen, the elder Bush contributed greatly to the Chinese misunderstanding of America.

Posted by: X at June 4, 2007 8:25 PM

X - very good.

A few speeches would have been helpful. We know what Ronald Reagan would have said. But that wasn't Bush's style. His son, on the other hand....

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 4, 2007 9:54 PM

too fearful of casualities to fight a long war,

You prefer that Bush1 had gone to war with China?

A few speeches would have been helpful.

Those speeches and 50 cents would get you a cup of coffee.

Posted by: Really? at June 5, 2007 6:33 AM


You're missing my point completely.

I'm not saying that the elder Bush should've gone to war with China over Tiananmen. I'm saying that his actions and inactions confirmed the belief of many Chinese that America is a paper tiger, a belief that continues to find an audience among many Chinese.

Back then, Deng assured his fellow hard-liners that the Western countries would soon forget about Tiananmen because they were all hungry for trade with China. Regardless of his motives, by sending Scowcroft to Beijing, Bush confirmed Deng's argument in the eyes of many Chinese that Americans really care more about profits than about freedom.

Today, many Chinese are looking at how Americans are reacting to battle casualties in Iraq, and concluding that America is so afraid of losing soldiers it is incapable of fighting any war for the long-term. As Mao said to Nixon when told America grieved over losing some 50,000 soldiers in Viet-nam, "you weren't serious (about fighting the war)."

This is a very dangerous misreading of the American character, and it is one that in his reactions to Tiananmen the elder Bush played no small part in perpetuating.

Posted by: X at June 5, 2007 7:45 AM

I, on the other hand, think we should have threatened war and followed through if they didn't back down.

Posted by: oj at June 5, 2007 11:37 AM