Tiananmen at 25: This Week’s Links

• There have been more detentions as the Beijing government works to ensure that no one is left voicing dissent on the day of the June Fourth anniversary. Anthony Kuhn of NPR News gives an overview of the recent crackdown in this Morning Edition report. Heather Timmons at Quartz has put together a list of those who have been arrested.

• One of the new names on that list is that of Xiang Nanfu, who is accused of fabricating stories that portray China in a bad light and posting them on the U.S.-based Chinese-language website Boxun. Though Xiang’s arrest is not directly tied to the Tiananmen anniversary, it comes as part of a larger crackdown on spreading rumors online that began last year.

In Hangzhou, two activists were taken into custody for planning memorial events scheduled for June 4. Xu Guang intended to hold a hunger strike around the anniversary, as he does every year, and Lu Gengsong was arrested and then released over an anti-Beijing essay that he recently published online.

Finally, a Chinese news assistant who works for the Japanese Nikkei newspaper has also been taken into custody. Some time ago, the assistant apparently attended a meeting with activist lawyer Pu Zhiqiang, the most well-known of China’s “diehard” lawyers, and his detention is somehow related to Pu’s recent arrest. This story sheds light on a fact that’s often forgotten: foreign reporters certainly take a risk when they investigate hot-button stories that the Chinese government would prefer remain untold. But, generally, foreign reporters are not the people who get in the most trouble when those stories get printed. Their Chinese news assistants and sources are much more vulnerable to government retaliation.

• Louisa Lim makes that point in a Washington Post essay that she published describing the precautions she took while living in Beijing and writing her forthcoming book, The People’s Republic of Amnesia:

I wrote my book on a brand-new laptop that had never been online. Every night I locked it in a safe in my apartment. I never mentioned the book on the phone or in e-mail, at home or in the office—both located in the same Beijing diplomatic compound, which I assumed was bugged. … I stuck to my rules doggedly. When I decided to throw out the structure I had outlined in my proposal and take a completely different approach, I waited until I left China months later to tell my patient editor. I didn’t tell any of my colleagues what I was working on in my off-hours. For weeks I didn’t even tell my children—then ages 7 and 5—for fear they might blurt something out at home. Later on, when they began to ask why I didn’t have time to play, I swore them to secrecy.

But, as Lim notes, “I was in a privileged position as a journalist with a press card and a foreign passport that offered an exit route none of my interviewees could share.” There have been a few high-profile cases of foreign academics and journalists getting banned from China due to their work on controversial topics like Tiananmen, Falun Gong, and Xinjiang. But without question, Chinese nationals take a much bigger risk when they wade into those waters.

• At the New York Review of Books, Ian Johnson has a long, excellent review of the two big Tiananmen books coming out this spring—Lim’s, and Rowena Xiaoqing He’s Tiananmen Exiles (I think Johnson’s review is paywalled; the NYRB has a content-sharing agreement with ChinaFile, so the essay will be posted at that site once a blackout period has passed). And at the Wall Street Journal’s China Real Time Report blog, I have an article about He’s book.

• Throughout the spring, China Digital Times has been doing “on this date” posts with links to original coverage of the events at Tiananmen. Patrick Chovanec, who was previously a business professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University and now works at an asset management firm in New York, has been doing a similar day-by-day retrospective in pictures on his Twitter feed. And at the New York Times Sinosphere blog, Chris Buckley has written several excellent analyses of important landmarks in the 1989 protests; his most recent one is on the downfall of moderate Party leader Zhao Ziyang:

To the party authorities, the subject of the late Mr. Zhao remains taboo, and his death in 2005 passed with scant official mention. In 1989, Mr. Deng and his supporters accused Mr. Zhao of splitting the leadership and revealing to the outside world the elite schism, exacerbating the upheavals engulfing Beijing. To his admirers, Mr. Zhao has stood as a rare example of unblemished principle, an enlightened leader who chose to forsake power rather than oversee a bloodbath.

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