Monday, 28 October 2013

Forgetting history

Letter to BBC.  The next news cycle they added "violent" to "crackdown". Being in China recently put me face to face with just how much of China's modern history has been forgotten, or never known.  "Gang of Four"? forget it.  No-one under 60 has even heard of them…. June 4th 1989 murderous crackdown? Nope.  
One might argue: "does it matter?".  That's another issue, of course.  For myself, I'm very much of the view that if we forget history, we're condemned to repeat it….  Anyhoo, letter to BBC:
Your report on BBC World News on the recent accident in Tian'anmen square mentioned the June 4 1989 events in the Square, but only twice and glancingly.
First there was mention that there were "demonstrations" in Tian'anmen in June 1989. The second mention, your Beijing correspondent mentioned June 4 1989 and called it a "crackdown".  
But please be clear: the "crackdown" on June 4 1989, was not just a major story. It was a MASSIVE story. It was THE story of that year and for a long time therafter.  The reason: after weeks of students, officials, teachers, and the general public demonstrating in and around Tian'anmen Square for more democracy in China, Deng Xiaoping sacked the then Premier Zhao Ziyang and sent in the tanks.  Thousands (though perhaps 100s) of the demonstrators were killed.  Tanks rolled over demonstrators.  Beijing became a ghost city. Hotels along Chang'an St were pockmarked with bullets. Most diplomats and foreign business people left. (I was there at the time and saw it all….).  Our Prime Minister at the time, Bob Hawke, cried on TV over the slaughter.
And this, you summarise, at worst, as a "crackdown"??  No mention of the Tanks, the killings, the dissidents ruthlessly hunted down and jailed.  
It's understandable that Chinese media is browbeaten to not mention this.  But the BBC??  What's stopping you saying that June 4 1989 was, as you called it at the time, a "massacre"?
What's keeping you from being more truthful?  The fact that China has so much commercial clout in the UK??  The fact that China owns much of your debt?? The fact that they're major investors in the UK??
Shame on you BBC…
Peter F
Australian Embassy Peking (1976-83) and SF & Co (1983-90)