Remember Tiananmen Square

Twenty-two years ago today, under the cover of darkness, China’s government unleashed its military against peaceful protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square asking for little more than a fairer deal from their unelected rulers. Hundreds, probably thousands of people were slaughtered on the streets of China’s capital city.

Last year, I interviewed Chinese writer in exile Ma Jian, author of Beijing Coma, a novel about the Tiananmen Square massacre and its aftermath that Ma says still reverberates today across China.

Beijing says the matter of the June 4, 1989 “incident” is closed. Tens of thousands of people will gather tonight in Hong Kong to remind Beijing that the incident remains very much alive in the minds of people everywhere who enjoy freedoms the people of China are still denied. The demand for fair and representative government remains, not just in China under the regime’s boot heels, but playing out right now across the Middle East.

The events of June 4, 1989 must serve as a reminder that change from dictatorship to freedom is not inevitable. In much of the Middle East, most notably Libya, Syria and Yemen, unwanted rulers are following China’s playbook to deal with their restive populations. People across the world should seize this day to remind those rulers clinging to power that it is time to go and that violent repression will have consequences.

To paraphrase a great revolutionary, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, not the other way around. Good people everywhere should demand that revolutionary idea take hold across the globe. Wherever you are, stand with the people of Hong Kong tonight.

Totally globalized native New Yorker and former broadcast news producer Muhammad Cohen is author of Hong Kong On Air, a novel set in his adopted hometown during the 1997 handover about television news, love, betrayal, financial crisis, and cheap lingerie.

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