A few days ago, I was discussing the issue of Tiananmen Square Massacre with my friend from China. Even though the massacre happened long ago, the issue remains controversial.
The event was triggered by the death of Hu Yaobang, who was a reformist and had advocated rehabilitation of the people being persecuted during the Cultural Revolution. Many Chinese citizens admired his contribution to China. However, the Chinese government just briefly mentioned his death and did not even plan to organize a state funeral for him. In response to that, many university students started a series of peaceful mass protests to occupy Tiananmen Square. The demonstrations began with a march in memory of Hu. As days passed, millions of people joined the protest and occupied the square. There were all angry about the widespread corruption and refused to move until their demands for democratic reform were met.
The non-violent protest was interpreted as “riot” and a “threat” to the social order of China by the Chinese government. Premier Li Peng told one of the government leaders Deng Xiaoping that the demonstrators were hostile to him personally and wanted the downfall of the communist government. On June 4 1989, the government warned the protesters that they would do anything to clamp down the “riot.” That night, tanks and troops moved into the streets of Beijing. The soldiers randomly fired on unarmed demonstrators. The bloody military operation caused the death of hundreds or even thousands of citizens. According to BBC News, photographer Jeff witnessed that a protester was crushed to death by a military tank. Here is a video of the incident; it gives an insight about how the civilians were killed.
The massacre is clearly a dirty hand problem. The Chinese government sacrificed their morality to exchange for peace and stability in China, so that the “riot” would not stop its economical development. According to Martin Hollis, “The Prince’s subjects are not individuals but citizens; and the difference in the moral demands of public and private life attaches to different social positions.” As there is a difference in the roles of the ruler and the people, the ruler needs to consider the best for its people instead of just some individuals. In the political way of thinking, the Chinese government’s action can be justified because the decision that they made was in the best interest of all of its citizens.
On the other hand, there are in fact many ways that can be used to settle the protest. For example, they could persuade the protesters to leave or they could carry them away. By any means, killing them would be the worst option. Even though they have claimed that the social order and economical development could only be maintained if and only if the “riot” ended, the civilians were only using a non-violent method to demand a democratic reform to stop the corruption. They hadn’t caused any social instability at all. The civilians definitely have the right to voice out their opinions about the current political system and this freedom should not be deprived by bloody military operations.
So what do you think? Do you think that the massacre could be justified because the government was acting in the best interest of the nation? Or do you think that the actions conducted by the Chinese government were way to extreme? Do you think it is right for the politicians to do something that is absolutely wrong in order to do something good for the country? Clearly it is too complicated to come up with an answer in this case as the problem of dirty hands is inevitable, but I believe there are still many ways to settle the demonstration.