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2014年6月 5日 (木)


June 04, 2014
EDITORIAL: 25 years after Tiananmen, China must heed calls for democracy

"Remember June 4" is a slogan that is banned in China. But in Hong Kong, Tokyo and other cities around the world, Chinese citizens and their supporters are chanting this mantra.

On June 4 exactly 25 years ago, China's Communist Party regime ordered the military to suppress pro-democracy students who had gathered in Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

We must never forget this date because the students' demands were absolutely spot on. Another reason is that Beijing is set on erasing the Tiananmen Square bloodbath from history.

Around the time of the crackdown, socialist countries around the world were undergoing painful restructuring of their systems. But the Chinese regime of the time survived the transition, and later spearheaded the country's rapid economic rise.

Probably emboldened by this, President Xi Jinping said in a speech during his visit to Europe in April, "Constitutional monarchy, imperial restoration, parliamentarism, a multiparty system and a presidential system, we considered them, tried them, but none worked," adding, "Finally, China took on the path of socialism."

But this assertion is nothing more than a simplistic perception of history from the Communist standpoint.

Now that China has abandoned a planned economy to allow market forces to rule, Xi's brand of socialism comes down to a system that does not tolerate any criticism against single-party rule by the Chinese Communist Party. The ranks of the oppressed do not consist only of political activists and intellectuals. All over China, ordinary citizens are unable to speak out against administrative and judicial corruption involving senior party members.

But Wang Dan, a leader of the democracy movement who played a prominent role in the Tiananmen Square protest, points out that, as a result of the bloody crackdown, Beijing can no longer ignore the public's awareness for human rights. According to a provision written into the Constitution in 2004, the state "respects and guarantees human rights."

Former Premier Wen Jiabao used to reiterate that Beijing would gradually expand the public's participation in politics and seek to promote individual freedoms through education.

But the direction seems to have been reversed since Xi came to power. Beijing certainly did not act "normal" when it began clamping down rigorously on activists and their supporters prior to June 4, and even applied pressure on foreign media.

Over the last 25 years, citizens groups have kept alive their resolve to change politics. The popularization of the Internet has promoted solidarity among citizens, enabling them to keep speaking out despite censorship and oppression. And in urban areas, citizens movements are being organized against factory construction and other issues.

Steadily and surely, the ranks of politically and socially aware Chinese citizens are growing. It has been argued that the intellectual level of the public is still too low for democracy and that democracy is not the right system for China. But such arguments are no longer tenable.

The Xi regime must heed the voices of the people seeking freedom. It is simply wrong to send people to jail for just criticizing the regime.

Beijing must allow free speech and accept the people's right to form associations to encourage healthy dissent. By skipping such phases of gradual democratization, China will never become a stable nation.

The shouted demands of students of 25 years ago are even more legitimate today. They must never be forgotten.

--The Asahi Shimbun, June 4


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