Next month will be the 30th anniversary of pro-democracy demonstrations which were brutally suppressed in China and have been a forbidden topic of discussion there ever since. Today the Guardian reports China is launching it’s annual “stability maintenance” campaign in advance of the anniversary. That includes getting activists connected to the event out of cities where they might influence people to speak up against the defacto one-party communist state:
Every year in late May, Hu Jia is taken on a mandatory holiday to Qinhuangdao, a port city almost 200 miles from his home in Beijing. He is accompanied by police on walks in the park or by the sea and is always in view of a minder. Hu returns to the capital only after 4 June, the anniversary of the Chinese government’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square…
“I won’t change, because this is based on feeling,” he said. “I don’t believe the Chinese Communist party is made of iron. I have never lost faith. I don’t think the power of evil can last for ever. It won’t.”…
Hu is one of many Chinese campaigners who are placed under tight surveillance in the days leading up to and after each anniversary. Every year, Chinese authorities launch an extensive “stability maintenance” campaign in which activists, critics of the government and outspoken parents of those who died in the crackdown are “travelled” to locations outside of Beijing or placed under house arrest. Social media is scrubbed of terms and images referring to the protests. Internet users sometimes find that searches even for words such as “today” are blocked.
China produces most of our electronics and consumer goods which makes them are a very large part of global trade. But politically they are an Orwellian nightmare, one which uses coercion, spying, and prison to maintain control of their people. And the advent of the internet and social media has only increased that control.
“In general, the control is more comprehensive now,” said Ai Xiao Ming, an activist and documentary film-maker who has been banned from leaving the country for the last 10 years. “‘Stability maintenance’ has been institutionalised. There are many methods.”
Campaigners who have spoken up have been punished. Four men who made liquor bottle labels that included the date of the Tiananmen crackdown were given jail sentences this year, after three years in pre-trial detention. “They have created the condition that whoever dares to stand up will be severely punished.
When you look at how difficult it has been for people in Venezuela to oppose their oppressive socialist government and how long that fight has been going on, the idea that people could oppose and replace the government in China feels a bit hopeless. In China, opposition to the state is barely tolerated in the present and is effectively deleted from the past, exactly like something from 1984. Here’s a CBS News report on the 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen:
Update: This Wall Street Journal report from 2017 gives a good overview of the Chinese surveillance effort in Xinjiang.