April 5th – Useless Tree

From The Useless Tree blog (link):

Thirty years ago today a crowd of people gathered in Tiananmen Square in the heart of Beijing. They were ostensibly mourning the death of Zhou Enlai, the longstanding Prime Minister who had died in January. A formal public commemoration had been blocked by Zhou’s political enemies, led by the “Gang of Four,” because they feared a large-scale demonstration of support for Zhou would weaken them politically. And for that, the demonstrators were violently repressed. But people wanted to pay tribute to the Premier, who had worked against some of the worst excesses of the Cultural Revolution. In a way, people wanted to believe that Zhou stood for moderation and reasonableness, both of which had been long absent from Chinese politics. Perhaps they were making him into more than he really had been, but the “April 5th Movement,” as the event is sometimes named, has come to stand for the popular desire for limits on the tyrannical abuse of political power.

There are no official commemorations of the 1976 demonstrations in the PRC today…

An official reminder of the events of 1976 would also call to mind the gap between the people’s political desires and the ruling group’s interest in maintaining power. Today this gap is most pronounced in the countryside, where farmers contend with corrupt local officials and courts that cannot bring justice, yielding tragedies like Dongzhou and Taishi. Urban dwellers seem undesirous of political protest: perhaps the booming economy and the diversifying society provide sufficient distraction and fulfillment to deflate political activism. Authoritarianism is not under threat in China now. And this is a sad thing for those brave people who stood up to a more ruthless and violent regime in 1976.

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