June 4, 2014 1:00 pm JST

Don't expect official view to change: HKUST's Sing

HONG KONG -- There is little chance that the Chinese leadership under President Xi Jinping will change its official view that the 1989 demonstrations in Tiananmen Square were a counterrevolutionary rebellion, according to Ming Sing, associate professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and an expert on the comparative study of democracy and democratization.

Q: How did the Tiananmen crackdown change China's politics and society?

A: Since then, the Chinese Communist Party has taken a hard-line stance against any political liberalization and democratization. The stance has given the regime the breathing space to focus on economic development. It has also suppressed legitimate demands (by citizens) for improving their social, economic and political rights, while compounding corruption and abuse of power.

Q: The crackdown prompted the West to set economic sanctions. Without that incident, would China have achieved economic growth more rapidly?

A: Mainstream research in comparative politics shows a careful relaxation of human rights (restrictions) and democratization can yield political stability, less corruption and better governance -- which will in turn contribute to economic growth. Look at Indonesia and many other successful cases.

Q: Is it possible that the Communist Party, led by Xi Jinping, will reassess its verdict on Tiananmen?

A: Very unlikely. Xi, so far, looks more authoritarian than many of his predecessors. He tries to build up his legitimacy by politically suppressing democratization on the one hand, and enhancing (China's) economic progress and international standing on the other.

     Many CCP leaders who were involved in the decision (to crack down on the protesters) are still alive. An open apology will trigger public demands for greater political accountability.

Q: What psychological influence does the Tiananmen incident have today?

A: For the people of Hong Kong, it triggers distrust and bitter sentiments against the CCP. That, coupled with Beijing's increasingly potent interference with Hong Kong's affairs, lessens the trust of Hong Kong people towards the idea of one country, two systems.

     Hong Kong people face three choices: a) consider nonviolent resistance movements to strive for democratization; b) consider emigration; and c) get apathetic and resigned to their fate.

-- Interviewed by Nikkei staff writer Yasuo Awai

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