I watched a seriously interesting documentary on Frontline last night about the “Tank Man” of Tiananmen Square, that lone and as yet unidentified young man who, after peaceful protests by Chinese citizens demanding freedom of information and democratic reform erupted into what has been termed the Beijing Massacre, stood in front of a line of tanks in a silent demonstration of defiance.
I had seen this photo (below) dozens of times, and I knew the basics of Tiananmen Square, but until I saw this documentary I had no idea of the extent of the brutality exhibited by the Chinese government, and how intertwined it was with the suppression of information that persists there today. They responded to a series of non-violent marches by declaring martial law, then storming the city and firing into crowds that included children, even shooting and killing doctors and ambulance drivers while they attempted to rescue the wounded. Then the government forced the Red Cross to suppress the number of dead, while denying those arrested for ‘political treason’ of anything resembling habeus corpus.
Also addressed is the role of American corporations such as Google, Cisco, Yahoo! and Microsoft, in recent years, in the Chinese government’s heavy censorship of web-based content and how this has lead to the imprisonment and de facto ‘vanishing’ of those who would attmept to circulate ‘forbidden’ information. Part of a congressional hearing (presided over with admirable bad-assedness by a couple Republican dudes) is shown, during which the VP of Yahoo! proves himself to be sort of a dick.
You can view the entire thing here. If you have two hours, it’s definitely worth the time.