Last year was the 25th anniversary of the “June 4 Incident,” as it is officially known. State security went full bore over the ultra-sensitive date, harassing journalists and activists, detaining anyone who sneezed on the subject.
They succeeded in maintaining the collective amnesia in-house, earned their bonuses and overtime, but in doing so, trolled foreign media so hard that the blowback was intense. I don’t know how much coverage was originally intended, but several journalist friends indicated they’d been so royally pissed off with the constant intimidation, their editors were all but sounding the bugle on the topic. Coverage was wall to wall, with stories everywhere.
This year, of course, will be much quieter: 26 isn’t as catchy as 25. But Global Times hasn’t forgotten, and duly produces a bungled editorial on the subject, attacking – and casually libeling – a group of overseas students for writing an open letter, requesting transparency over the crackdown. Here’s the closing paragraph:
Chinese society has reached a consensus on not debating the 1989 incident. Students born in the 1980s and 1990s have become the new targets of overseas hostile forces. When China is moving forward, some are trying to drag up history in an attempt to tear apart society. It’s a meaningless attempt and is unlikely to be realized.
Frankly, the rest of the rant isn’t worth the click. Moreover, there is really little point to GT’s article (even less so than usual, that is). No mainstream outlet had even reported on the letter prior to the editorial. The first was the Guardian, which published its article shortly before midnight a day later, referencing GT in the third graf.
If Streisand Effect was the intention of the trolling, so be it. There aren’t any other logical reasons for flagging the date by turning the full glare of the Batshit Signal on this group of 11 Chinese students while accusing them, ad hominem, of being “brainwashed” by a “paranoid minority” in an “attempt to tear society apart.” (Just because they’re “paranoid,” GT, doesn’t mean the government isn’t out to get them.)
It’s telling how an authoritarian apparatus that has engineered a culture of amnesia and self-censorship is, itself, quite incapable of either. Like a sinner with a guilty conscience, GT can’t help running its own mouth. An annual hit-piece on Tiananmen has become almost as symbolic and ritualistic as the candlelit gathering in Hong Kong’s Victoria Park. Rather than memorializing the victims, though, it simply serves to shame the perpetrators.
UPDATE: The shambles continues with an order from the goon squad to “urgently delete the Global Times commentary.” So dignified.