Tiananmen and Turkey

June 4th is the 24th anniversary of Tiananmen square. In Hong Kong there is a yearly vigil in Victoria Park; last year saw 180,000 people participate, and last night tens of thousands braved a rain/thunderstorm to hold candles under umbrellas. This is a nice overview of it. Censorship has long been a problem in China, and my students bring up Tiananmen from time to time by referring to the date: 6-4. They then feel slightly uncomfortable talking about it.

While China has become easier to deal with in some ways–they are beginning to allow some citizens to have 2 children (only if both parents were originally single children), they are beginning to open up more commercial trading, and visiting feels easy–they are also just as stringent about censorship. Self-censorship and official censorship create a wealth of misinformation and distrust. Here are a few articles I enjoyed (NYTimes) about getting around it: On social media, banned books, and a bicycle blogger. Chinese government wants more identification online, and self-censorship and fear of being caught gives them even more strength.

I am of the opinion that censorship is inherently bad, as it allows freedom for those in power. Last year at this time I was living in Turkey, where press freedoms are similarly limited. Some sites (albeit fewer) are blocked, including Rolling Stone and Youtube for a few months. Now as the state has responded to an environmental protest by teargassing civilians the local news media has been lax in its coverage. The youth who are in the lead of the movement are sharing all over facebook and twitter, and getting the word out through other channels, but the power of a single (democratically elected) leader is frightening. Here is an article about Erdoğan’s power trip and the protests more broadly.

The protests in Turkey and the anniversary of Tiananmen are centered in the two places I have spent the most time outside of the US. Living in these places makes me care more than I would otherwise, and gives me background to the cultural tides bringing on the protests. Friends and students would tell me about how Erdoğan was making the country Islamist, and how he was weary of Deep State; now we talk about how happy we are that Hong Kong doesn’t have the same censorship as China and we go out of social media as soon as we cross the border without a VPN.

This is my effort to let you all know what’s happening in these places. Look at an article or two! These countries are usually safe and fascinating and beautiful, and I hope they can stay that way.

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