China’s rulers have learned a lot since 4 June 1989 when students made headlines protesting their repressive authoritarian government. Unarmed, some stood in the way of relentlessly approaching military tanks; between 200 (official version) and 3000 (Chinese Red Cross) got killed, thousands arrested. All around the globe, people expressed solidarity with and compassion for these students fighting for their freedom.
Today’s students were barely born and know next to nothing about the tragic events some 18 years ago. Government censorship forbids any reference to the event in the media, and a pro-Beijing official of Hong Kong even denied that the massacre had happened at all. And to ensure that such protests won’t be repeated, officials designed a rather clever plan; they send the students to the United States where they acquire a taste for freedom that’s easily satisfied: the freedom to choose between different name brands, such as Nike or Adidas. The freedom to express one’s individuality by wearing cool fashion. Obviously, those chosen to study abroad are the ones in little danger of becoming too critical or rebellious. Although having access to resources which would allow them to examine the past and present policies of their government, they don’t avail themselves of this opportunity. Instead, they repeat the lies and inanities they grew up with.
It should be no surprise then that Chinese students at the University of Southern California protested loudly at the recent lecture of a Tibetan monk. They resent the pro-Tibetan sentiments of many Americans and perceive them as being unjustified. They argue that Tibet has belonged to China for thousands of years. That the Dalai Lama had connections to Hitler. That the Chinese army liberated the exploited, suppressed Tibetan citizens. That these same citizens are much better off today after China brought them modern technology.
One has to hand it to the Chinese government and their clever way to quell dissent: sending their elite students to the US will make them much more obedient and submissive than confronting them with tanks would.