Sunday, 13 February 2011

Guest Blogger: Alun Jones - Tahrir vs Tiananmen

In a break from ordinary service, Four Thousand Words is proud to present it's first guest blogger. Council employee and father-of-two Alun Jones shares my interest in politics but has the benefit of a few more years of experience, not least during the Thatcher years, which for the benefit of our foreign readers was a time of great hardship for low-income families.

Tahrir vs Tiananmen

We've all witnessed great events in Egypt over the last few weeks. This has culminated in Hosni Mubarak stepping down from power. A huge well-done to the people of Egypt. I hope things genuinely begin to improve for you all.

Whilst feeling some measure of the elation we all felt when the Berlin Wall came down, it occurred to me that there were some interesting parallels with the events in China also in 1989.

Obviously, both were protests against oppression centred on squares in the capital whose names begin with T!

One protest succeeded, another failed. Why? I don't think it was modern communications as the Egyptian government unlinked from the internet so the protesters used old-tech like CB radio.

In the end, I believe it came down to the differing responses of the relevant armies. In Egypt, the army (468,500) chose not to get too involved. This left Mubarak relying on a small group of thugs to attempt to coerce the protesters. Clearly, this failed.

In 1989, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) numbering 2,250,000, moved into Tiananmen and cleared the square with live fire. Estimates of the death-toll go up to 3000 (which is more than died in the 28 years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland).

What I can't explain is why the PLA so brutally suppressed it's own people whilst the Egyptian Army stood aside. I'd like to think that the generals of the Egyptian army decided to allow the country to decide, whereas in China the PLA is intimately tied into the Communist Party structures and is sworn to consolidate it's status as ruling party.

Sorry, I now seem to be rambling without approaching a conclusion! There's probably some moral about picking your fights or about what the role of an army should be but I think I'd like to end as follows:

Congratulations to the people of Egypt. Enjoy your freedom and I hope that your new democracy will hold your representatives to account better than ours! As for the rest of the world, I hope that the leaders of Myanmar (Burma), North Korea, Zimbabwe, China & elsewhere will be just that bit more nervous.

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