What Happened to the Tiananmen Spirit?

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2009 8:52 AM CDT
Ann Lau places candles by a portable memorial which demonstators placed at the front door of the Chinese Consulate in LA to mark the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests, June 4, 2004.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – Twenty years ago today, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times was in Tiananmen Square, sweating in fear and watching as "'People’s China' opened fire on its people." The soldiers had shot at ambulances, too, so no one was helping the wounded—except the rickshaw drivers. One driver, tears in his eyes, stopped so Kristof could photograph his cart full of bodies. He “perhaps couldn’t have defined democracy, but he had risked his life to advance it.”

It was a night filled with acts of courage. So what happened? Why are there no protests today? Kristof theorizes that the people “were demanding not precisely a parliamentary democracy, but a better life—and they got it.” But with an educated middle class comes political aspirations. China may soon find itself on the same path Taiwan and South Korea took. Democracy could come without a bullet being fired.