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On Tiananmen anniversary, China’s repressive approach worrisome

The Yomiuri ShimbunCircumstances surrounding human rights and freedom of speech have drastically receded. The present situation in China, which is transforming into an authoritarian surveillance state, is deeply worrying.

Tuesday marked the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen incident in which the administration of the Communist Party of China suppressed students and others who sought democracy, causing many casualties. The Communist Party justified the suppression by force by declaring the pro-democracy movement as a “counter-revolutionary rebellion.”

After the incident, the party has placed priority on stability and economic growth through strengthening the system of one-party rule, turning its back on democratization. Information about the incident has been concealed and quite a few young people do not know about the incident. It is regrettable that the incident is eroding away without the truths being elucidated.

What cannot be overlooked is that the government of President Xi Jinping has been increasing its stranglehold over anti-government elements and ethnic minorities.

A large number of human rights lawyers and activists have been detained, and unjust prolonged detentions continue. A university professor who sought reevaluation of the incident last year was punished with a suspension.

In the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in western China, the ethnic minority Uighurs who practice Islam and other people have been imprisoned in detention facilities under such reasons as “stability maintenance.” In its March report, the U.S. State Department pointed out the possibility that more than 2 million people have been detained.

Xi must pursue reforms

In China, cyberspace is used by the government to control information, supporting its authoritarian governance. Acts and comments critical of the party or the government are immediately detected, through artificial intelligence and surveillance cameras, and contained. These are not justifiable measures using “national security” as the reason.

Xi has said that a single model cannot solve the problems of all countries, expressing his intention not to accept the democratization that the United States and Europe are demanding.

It has to be said that views held by Japan, the United States and Europe that China will embark on political reforms once it becomes affluent were too optimistic. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said: “The United States hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society. Those hopes have been dashed.”

China, which is unable to even share basic values such as human rights and liberty, would not be able to gain international trust even if it advocates “peaceful development.” The Xi administration must realize that distrust of a dissimilar superpower is a source of the U.S.-China disputes over trade, security and high technology.

The Communist Party has contained people’s dissatisfaction with one-party rule by improving their living standards. However, the high growth that had been seen can no longer be hoped for. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening and social issues, such as environmental pollution, are further becoming serious.

How far does the Xi administration expand its authoritarian method? The international community has to tenaciously point out China’s problems to prompt it to carry out reforms.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 5, 2019)Speech



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