A Chinese state-run daily defended the government’s handling of the Tiananmen protests on Monday, saying it “immunized” China against turmoil in a rare editorial about the crackdown on the eve of its 30th anniversary.

Hundreds, or by some estimates more than a 1,000, unarmed civilians were killed when troops and tanks were deployed to extinguish the pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing on June 4, 1989.

After the crackdown. Photo: HRIC archive, courtesy of Gail Butler, Libby Schmalz.

The Global Times’ English-language edition hailed the Chinese government’s handling of what it called the “incident” in an editorial titled: “June 4 immunized China against turmoil”.

“As a vaccination for the Chinese society, the Tiananmen incident will greatly increase China’s immunity against any major political turmoil in the future,” wrote the nationalist tabloid, which is affiliated with the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily.

The paper echoed comments by China’s defence minister, General Wei Fenghe, who defended the bloody crackdown as the “correct” policy at a regional security forum in Singapore on Sunday.

It is rare for Chinese officials or media to publicly discuss the strictly taboo topic. Authorities have detained activists and tightened online censorship ahead of the anniversary.

The party’s “control of the incident” in 1989 had been a “watershed” that marked the difference between China’s rapid economic progress and the fate of other communist countries such as the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia that disintegrated, the Global Times said.

After the crackdown. Photo: HRIC archive, courtesy of Gail Butler, Libby Schmalz.

The editorial — which only appeared in the English-language print and online edition of the paper — also rebuked dissidents, Western politicians and media, saying their criticism of the event would have “no real impact” on Chinese society.

On Monday, Taiwan added its voice to the mix, issuing an unusually strong condemnation of the crackdown.

Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said Beijing should “sincerely repent for the June 4 incident and proactively push for democratic reforms”.

“We earnestly admonish the Chinese authorities to face up to the historical mistake, and sincerely apologise as soon as possible,” the statement added.

The editorial — which only appeared in the English-language print and online edition of the paper — also rebuked dissidents, Western politicians and media, saying their criticism of the event would have “no real impact” on Chinese society.

The Communist Party has tightened its grip on civil society since President Xi Jinping took office in 2012, detaining activists and rights lawyers, intensifying online censorship, and using high-tech policing to keep the population in check.

The Global Times said today’s China, with its growing wealth, has “no political conditions” that could reignite “the riot” seen three decades ago.

“Chinese society, including its political elite, is now far more mature than in 1989.”


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