When the so-called Arab Spring swept the Middle East and North Africa, the reverberations also shuddered through Chinese civil society – first as a new wave of online activism, and then as crushing oppression from the Chinese state.
When dissidents began calling for China to stage its own “Jasmine Revolution,” the authorities responded with overwhelming force. Since February the Chinese government has targeted more than 100 activists and human rights defenders.
The weight of such overt oppression — the worst since the 2009’s deadly Urumqi riots — is made particularly acute by the 22nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown on pro-democracy activists. Although more than two decades have passed since the 1989 protests, the Chinese authorities are quick to extinguish any forms of commemoration, and to silence voices of discontent raised around the politically volatile anniversary.