The New Tiananmen Papers
Inside the Secret Meeting That Changed China
The Tiananmen Papers
Chinese Dissidence From Tiananmen to Today
How the People's Grievances Have Grown
Modern China's Original Sin
Tiananmen Square's Legacy of Repression
When Communists Rewrite History
Austerity With Chinese Characteristics
Why China's Belt-Tightening Has More To Do With Confucius Than Keynes
The End of Reform in China
Authoritarian Adaptation Hits a Wall
Autocracy With Chinese Characteristics
Beijing's Behind-the-Scenes Reforms
China's New Revolution
The Reign of Xi Jinping
The Problem With Xi’s China Model
Why Its Successes Are Becoming Liabilities
The China Reckoning
How Beijing Defied American Expectations
China’s Bad Old Days Are Back
Why Xi Jinping Is Ramping Up Repression
Reeducation Returns to China
Will the Repression in Xinjiang Influence Beijing's Social Credit System?
How Artificial Intelligence Will Reshape the Global Order
The Coming Competition Between Digital Authoritarianism and Liberal Democracy
When China Rules the Web
Technology in Service of the State
On May 3, 2014, about a dozen rights activists met in a private apartment in Beijing, where they held a seminar marking the 25th anniversary of the protests and crackdown in Tiananmen Square. Since that night, most of the activists have disappeared. At least one of them, Pu Zhiqiang, a human rights lawyer, has been formally detained (the prelude to a criminal charge) for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
In a way, none of this is surprising. China is an authoritarian regime. Whoever challenges it takes a risk. But what is surprising is that this small group of activists had held the same kind of meeting for several years without getting into trouble. The fact that they weren’t as lucky this year is one sign among many that repression in China has not only not eased in recent years but is getting worse.
But why? As the rights activists argued, it all goes back to June 4, 1989. The regime’s attack on the pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square was an inflection point, one at which it could have chosen liberalization or repression. Zhao Ziyang, who was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), favored dialogue with the students. He argued that they were patriotic, that they shared the regime’s goal of opposing corruption, and that if the leadership told the students that it accepted their demands the students would peacefully leave the square. Li Peng, the prime minister, countered that if the CCP legitimized opposition voices by negotiating with them, the party’s political rule, based on a monopoly of power, would crumble. In the end, Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping sided with Li.
Having picked the path of repression in 1989, the regime has had to steadily step it up. Here, too, the May 3 meeting is emblematic. The participants were calling for the regime to acknowledge that the student demonstrations were not dongluan, “a turmoil” -- the official term for the demonstrations, which implies that they were a violent rebellion. They also
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