The Tiananmen Square protests, which took place 30 years ago today and led to a brutal and deadly crackdown of scores of pro-democracy activists by the Chinese authorities, could not happen in today’s Beijing.
That’s because China no longer has “freedom of assembly,” said Reggie Littlejohn, the founder of the organization Women’s Rights Without Frontiers that protects women in China. Currently, any two or more people who do protest there are “detained immediately.”
Since the 1989 massacre, human rights in the vast Asian country “have not improved but deteriorated,” she said in a statement, adding that the country has become “a surveillance state,” where technology is being used as an instrument of “repression.”
Part of that repression includes government attempts to erase the Chinese people’s memory of the government crackdown, which killed hundreds, if not several thousands. References to it are censored on social media, news and history books, in what has become known as the “great forgetting.”
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, stressed on Twitter that the massacre is “not erasable” and that the Chinese people are “still waiting for the apology to compensate this massacre of the China government.”
But that apology is not expected anytime soon, as the government continues to clamp down on various freedoms in a bid to control the population in China and to ensure the survival of the Chinese Communist Party.
Beijing has “ramped up” its digital-surveillance program “on a massive scale,” said Steven Mosher, an authority on China and the president of the Population Research Institute. He told the Register May 21 that, since 2012, it has run a “DNA-collection program,” beginning with the oppressed Uyghur minority and then extending it to the rest of the country.
“This is part of the surveillance state that China is setting up,” explained Mosher, who, in 1979, became the first American research student allowed to carry out anthropological research in China following the Cultural Revolution. “For the first time in the world, we’re seeing a high-tech digital dictatorship which will, at the end of the day, be able to monitor on a 24/7 basis where everybody is, what everybody’s doing.”
The goal of the state “is, of course, to stay in power,” Mosher said, using people’s DNA to trace them and track them down if they do something the government dislikes. In the U.S., DNA samples are taken for criminals, he pointed out. “In China, it’s nationwide.”
He also believes, following a recent hacking of a U.S. government personnel database, that China is already setting up surveillance beyond its borders, including a database that includes “tens of millions of Americans,” and is using companies such as Huawei to do it.
The surveillance crackdown also makes use of facial-recognition technology, allowing the government to track people even without a cellphone. “It’s Orwellian in a sense that even George Orwell would never have imagined,” said Mosher.
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