4 June esprit

4 June esprit
(liusi qingjie)
Around early morning of 4 June 1989, the Chinese military fought their way into Tiananmen Square and repressed the seven-week-long 1989 Prodemocracy Movement. The repression resulted in hundreds of deaths, and many student activists and intellectuals fled abroad. The phrase ‘4 June esprit’ (liusi qingjie) has been used ever since to refer to certain psychologies and activities derived from the repression. First, the repression antagonized the overseas Chinese communities. Each year on 4 June, overseas and Hong Kong Chinese hold protests, vigils and concerts that oppose the military repression and memorialize the dead. Second, the repression created an exile community with a common identity (the exited movement leaders, for example, call themselves the Tiananmen Square generation’). They continuously condemn the repression and demand rehabilitation, and strive to make the movement presently relevant.
Third, the repression changed the image of the Chinese government in the West. Each year on 4 June, major media outlets in the West carry articles that discuss 4 June-related issues. Finally, the Chinese government has treated 4 June as a day of taboo since 1989. Each year around 4 June, the government carefully monitors the major university campuses and Tiananmen Square to prevent any commemorative activities from happening. At the repression’s tenth anniversary, the government even sealed off Tiananmen Square and started a renovation project.
The magnitude of the ‘4 June esprit’, however, has experienced a decline. In overseas and Hong Kong Chinese communities, commemorative activities continue, but fewer people are participating. On China’s university campuses, commemorative activities have ceased in recent years. As China’s economic reform further deepens, new concerns and identities have emerged.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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