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Ghosts of Tiananmen

10:35 AM, Jun 4, 2014 • By MARION SMITH
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One of the principal ways in which unjust regimes govern without the consent of their people is by distorting history and hiding truth. To be sure, the China of 2014 is not the China of Mao Tse-tung. The Chinese Communist Party since the 1990s has incorporated limited market-based reforms. But China remains a one party system that stifles free speech and dissent. It still stubbornly refuses to come to terms with the victims it has sent to labor camps, imprisoned, and killed – a number in the tens of millions, far eclipsing the murderous Nazi and Soviet regimes. Human rights activists and dissidents like Chen Guangcheng are harassed, persecuted, and forced to flee the country. Rarely are the words “China” and “Communist” even used in the same sentence, even though Beijing remains firmly committed to that discredited system.

As Czech novelist Milan Kundera noted, “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” That struggle requires that we advocate for human rights, even when inconvenient. This is the still unlearned lesson that we must ponder on this 25th anniversary of a deadly massacre about which we still know very little, except that a Communist government killed its people and that the guilty Party still governs. Tank Man remains an indelible image of the formidable power of the state arrayed against the individual. But that image is only powerful if there are others who honor it.

Marion Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

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