The French Press and June Fourth

The French newspapers and journals are gearing up heavily for commemorations of the 20th anniverary of the crackdown on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, a series of events which occurred on the early morning of June 4, 1989.

Translations follow:

1) Pascale Nivelle, “The Bloggers Weave their Web Around the Censors [Les blogueurs tissent leur Toile autour de la censure],” Libération (Paris), 2 June 2009, p. 6 of special section, “Tiananmen.”

When he arrived from his province in 2004, Liu Xiao Yuan did not know what his computer’s server was. Five years later, this lawyer is a frenetic blogger. Writing on different portals, he diffuses his articles on dozens of blogs, which are either active or closed according to the pleasure of the censors. The screen at the portal Sina.com tells him: “The article which you wish to publish is illegal.” Liu goes back and forth with the portal Sohu: “The cyberpolice cannot be everywhere,” he states. “There is always a place through which one can pass.”

A the end of 2008, China counted 298 million netizens, among whom are 162 million bloggers, according to official statistics.

Hide and Seek {Cache-cache}. Lawyers, journalists, essayists, historians, citizens, among those for whom the word “harmony” may be troubling, find their way to the Web. There, they laught at, mock, denunciate, and debate to infinity and play games of “gotcha” with the animated cyberpolice who seek to ambush their writing. “They often appear on their animated motorcycles in the form of advertisements,” states Liu Xiao Yuan.

Shenzhen, 2007

Shenzhen, 2007

For Ai Weiwei, the Beijing artist who managed to launch a campaign about badly-constructed schools in Sichuan, the Web is the revolution o the past twenty years. “The traditional media will only change a bit, but with the internet it is no longer possible to hide everything. It is a tool of tremendous power.”

Ai Weiwei 艾未未

In the provinces which are quite remote, there are more netizens than the night before. The smallest incident is instantaneously set online with photos, articles and comments by the thousands. There also circulate rumors, which the official media rapidly labels as insanity, which are daily proven. “We live in nirvana thanks to the Web,” says Zhang Yaojie, profesor at the Institute of Arts in Beijing.

“Nowhere else does such a pure place of liberty exist. The information circulates, humanity debates, and it is very constructive. It liberally informs us, that humanity is not simply about hatred of power or resentment. It represents the desire to make societal progress without blindly following the Western models which had been so fascinating, but were misconceived, in 1989.”

Some netizens call this “debating about the sun.” Timid at first, they are then emboldened along with the times: “Ten years ago, persons didnt dare to share their views,” recounts Zhang Yaojie, the professor. “Today, at the most minor incident, it is simply not possible to read everything about it. For us, the teachers, it is a period of fascinating research, and the apparition of an incredible liberty.”

Radio, television and journals remain submissive to the directives of the department of propaganda, avoiding all the “negative subjects” such as violence, corruption, banditism, or extramarital relations. They cannot mock the handicapped, the political slogans, or the directors of their discourse. They cannot mark as valorous those who have conflicts with the government. They cannot encourage the cult of Western culture and values…

The 30,000 cyberpolice are insufficient to support a total reign of control over the Net. Their “Great Firewall” to protect the Web is much the same as the Great Wall, but ceaselessly under attack. One means of going around the wall is available through Wikipedia. “One can already announce the defeat of the authoritarian blockade of information,” assures the full-time blogger Zhang Shishe, alias “Tiger Temple,” whose desire is to, through the internet, become “the saint-savior of democracy in China.” “One can try by any means possible, but it can’t be possible to be defeated for only technical reasons,” states he. “Ultimately the construction of the Great Wall was an ordinary gesture, and we can consult the all same desires today.” According to him, it suffices to apprehend the method of the functionaries: “I don’t have the sense that they are animated by some immense zeal,” asserts Tiger Temple, “it’s like they have been decommissioned but still show up to work.”

Seminars. The system does fuction better for very targetted subjects, especially “6/4,” the 4th of June 1989, which always lies under complete blockade. The recent period, the netiyens, like the authoriteis, have reinforced their vigilance. “The risk of the Internet, is that they can accumulate evidence against you,” estimates a blogger, “so we pay much attention for a sensible period.” The 10th of May, for the first time in 20 years, 19 people, many of whom were historians, organized a seminar on the events of Tiananmen, in a local pocket of a Beijing-flavored hill. “We know that we are under surveillance,” explained a participant, “so we didn’t exchange any mail among ourselves.” Their debate went on for nine hours. “It is the traditional method which functions.”

2. Fabice Rozié, “Chinese Publications Make their Revolution on the Internet [ L'édition chinoise fait sa révolution sur Internet],” Le Monde, 29 May 2009, “Des Livres” section, p. 8.
A person responsible for publications in Beijing just announded to his colleagues that currently, in preparation to advance capital into the American and European publishing houses, without regard to media, that China would invest up to the sum of 10 billion Yuan (more than 1 billion Euros). Is this an effect of cuts, or a rallying cry?

China pursuses in every case its methodical overture toward economic integration through the society of spectacle, now halfway on the course rom the Olympic Games in Peking 2008 to the World Exposition in Shanghai in 2010. Toward this October 2009, Chinese writers prepare to enter as a group on the international scee, in the next edition of “Foire de Francfort,” where several Chinese have been invited as guests of honor.

The announcement was made through the professional organization, Book China Forum, itself consecrated in order to expand the book industry in China and to aid its integration into international markets. Their seminar, which lasted from 11 to 13 May 2009, was organized at the initiative of Dana Ziyasheva, a counsellor of UNESCO in Peking, and partnered with the magazine China Publishing Today, and supported by French and Austrian book services as well as the British Council and australian Council. More than thirty speakkers, literary directors, lawyers, marketing professionals, agents, translators and journalists, took part in the debates — along, on the French side, with the presence of editors Manuel Carcassonne (Grasset) and Patrice Hofmann (Flammarion).

More later….


In combination with the Dalai Lama’s upcoming visit to Europe, these often emotive depictions of China’s past promise today to keep things boiling in their typically potent fashion.

NOTE on Libération: Anglophone readers wishing for a taste of the paper’s content on other issues are encouraged to consult its English-language site.