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Prosperity tangible along Chang'an Ave

  • Source: The Global Times
  • [04:58 June 04 2009]
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By Jiang Xueqing

Yesterday morning saw the usual crowds at Tiananmen Square. People came out to enjoy the sun, exercise and take pictures. A little girl in a rainbow-colored skirt stood by the Golden Water Bridge and smiled brightly for the camera.

Tourists, mostly foreigners, pointed their cameras up at Tiananmen Tower at the heart of Beijing, looking to capture something special.

Nearby, uniformed and plain-clothed officers, each wearing a pin of the national flag, stood along the path in front of the tower, watching the crowd closely.

“There are more policemen than usual these days,” said a local retiree who jogs around the square daily for exercise. He asked to remain anonymous.

By sundown, the crowd was gone. The square closed – blocked off to the public. People were still, however, able to watch the daily flag-lowering ceremony from just beyond the square borders.

Twenty years after the June 4 Tiananmen incident, public discussion about what happened that day is almost nonexistent in mainstream society on the Chinese mainland.

It’s still a sensitive topic. Scholars, officials and businessmen declined interviews with the Global Times on the subject. And searches for “June 4 incident” on the Chinese versions of Google, Baidu and Yahoo were blocked.

When asked to comment on China’s road to development in the last 20 years, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Sciences cautiously responded with his own question, “Why the last 20 years (1989-2009) instead of 30 years?” After all, economic reform started in 1978.

People born in the late 1970s and after have little memory and vague ideas of the incident.

During a training session for 120 college volunteers before the Olympic Games in Beijing last year, Chen Ping, former deputy venue manager for Media Operations at the Olympic Green Tennis Center, told the volunteers that China failed its first bid for the Olympic Games in 1993 because international society was unfriendly toward China after the turmoil in 1989. He asked the volunteers, mostly sophomores aged 19-20, if they knew what he was talking about. They all looked puzzled.

Li Xiang, who worked as a computer programmer for a small IT company in Beijing, was 9 years old in 1989. He lived on Fuxing Road, a west extension of Chang’an Avenue. His memory? The primary school he attended near the China National Radio building complex on Nanlishi Road was closed for a week in June 1989.

“I was happy for no school and no homework,” Li said. “My parents watched news broadcasts on CCTV attentively with serious looks. I also took a few glimpses. The pitch-black burnt bodies of soldiers impressed me, but I had no idea what happened.”

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