Tienanmen Square still conveys a sense of reverence to visitors and passers-by because of the pro-democracy protest that ended violently there 25 years ago.
The anniversary was commemorated Wednesday by tens of thousands of people who gathered in Hong Kong to light candles, hear speeches and sing songs. In the spring of 1989, thousands of students, workers and others gathered at Tienanmen Square to push for government transparency and more openness.
But the protest ended with Chinese troops opening fire, killing hundreds of peaceful protesters. It doesn’t appear, however, that the protesters died in vain.
Chinese troops still march through Tienanmen Square, giving people a sense of the communist government’s ominous presence. I felt it when I was in that there last fall. Tourists snap pictures of them but don’t give the young uniformed soldiers a second thought.
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Clearly the iron grip that held China in 1989 isn’t the same today. The country is more open to business and boasts the world’s second largest economy.
Internet access and social media, though not as unbridled as they are in the West, they have served to open up China more, enabling its people to be more informed. China now boasts a growing share of billionaires, which would have been unthinkable in this communist country in the 1980s. Long buried under the appeal of capitalism is the old communist slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.
Even though the government discourages it today, and people in China are reluctant to talk about it, there is no question that China has opened up since the massacre at Tienanmen Square, and there is no going back for this country of 1.4 billion people to the way things once were.