Today is the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in China, though the best known image from that event, of a man standing before a tank, happened on June 5. Despite the awkward anniversary, China’s crackdown on freedom in Hong Kong continues today. A new law was put in place which makes it a crime to mock or insult the Chinese national anthem.
Thursday marks 31 years since Chinese troops opened fire on June 4, 1989, to end student-led unrest around the square in Beijing. Rights groups say the enforcement action may have killed thousands of protesters, although the official government count was a few hundred.
Hong Kong also passed a law Thursday that criminalizes the insulting of China’s national anthem, amid chaotic scenes in the territory’s legislature.
The law, passed after three readings, makes it illegal to insult the “March of the Volunteers” anthem. Booing, changing the lyrics or disrespecting the song is now punishable with up to three years in prison or fines equal to about $6,450.
Last May was the 70th anniversary of the founding of the PRC and China created a video full of children and celebrities, including Jackie Chan, singing the anthem:
But disrespect for the anthem in Hong Kong made news a few months later when soccer fans booed the anthem before a game and sang a pro-independence song instead:
Meanwhile, pro-mainland China protesters in Hong Kong have responded by singing the anthem in public places as a way to push back on pro-democracy protesters.
All of that to say, the anthem has become a real flashpoint in Hong Kong. The push for a bill to protect the anthem from mockery led to a brawl on the floor of Hong Kong’s parliament two weeks ago. As you’ll see in this clip, some lawmakers were physically carried off the floor. In the aftermath, pro-democracy legislator Dennis Kwok said, “Whenever Beijing, whenever Carrie Lam and the pro-establishment don’t like something, they will do whatever it takes, including breaking the system that we have, the rules that we have.” He added, “They will burn down whatever is in their way.”
So in a sense, it seems appropriate that this bill was pushed through on the anniversary of Tiananmen Square. This is once again China using power to compel obedience.
There are of course no videos of Tiananmen or recognition of this day inside mainland China. Chinese censors make sure of that. But China’s propaganda outlets are comparing the massacre to President Trump’s consideration of sending troops into cities to quell rioting. Here’s the editor of state-run Global Times making the point a couple of days ago on Twitter.
The US is commemorating Tiananmen incident in a unique way. US military is being dispatched to the cities and police are opening fire. The US is proving the importance for China to restore order in 1989. But back then, the destruction of China's order was much worse than US' now. pic.twitter.com/mxyK8brjtA
— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) June 3, 2020
This propaganda isn’t meant for China. It’s in English obviously but also Twitter is completely blocked in China. This is just more Chinese propaganda to cover for their crack down on freedoms in Hong Kong.
Finally, here’s the anthem preferred by pro-freedom protesters with lyrics in English.
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