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Tiananmen Square watch withdrawn from auction controversial


Written by By Eoin McSweeney, CNN

An English luxury auction house withdrew a commemorative watch given to a Chinese soldier in the wake of the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989 after its seller received threats on social media.
The owner of the watch was concerned for its safety, the Fellows Auctioneers said in a statement on Wednesday. Communist authorities donated timepieces like these to Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops, the statement said.

The owner of the watch was not associated with the armed forces or the Chinese government “to our knowledge,” Fellows said.

The stainless steel object bore the inscription “89.6 in commemoration of the suppression of the rebellion” and was due to be auctioned on April 19.

The Communist Party of China Central Committee (CCCPC) also reportedly presented soldiers with medals and a photo book titled “Defenders of the Capital,” said Louisa Lim, author of “The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited.” , which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize in 2015.

“The fact that such commemorative memorabilia were distributed signifies the importance that the Chinese Communist Party has placed on suppressing pro-democracy protests, which have been presented as a counterrevolutionary rebellion,” she said. told CNN on Friday.

It is not known how many are in circulation, Lim added.

For about a decade before 1989, the Chinese economy had steadily opened up and allowed small amounts of free enterprise in the communist country, after years of tight state control under Chairman Mao Zedong.

CNN photojournalist Jonathan Schaer took this photo of the infamous Tiananmen Square standoff in 1989. Credit: CNN

Large-scale protests began in April that year, calling for greater social freedom, such as free speech and even democracy. Protesters occupied Tiananmen Square, the huge public space in central Beijing that faces the Forbidden City, the former home of Chinese emperors, and the Great Hall of the People.

On the night of June 3, convoys of armed troops entered Beijing with the aim of clearing the place by all necessary means. Blocked by civilians in the streets trying to protect the students, the troops opened fire.

No official death toll has ever been released by the Chinese government, but human rights groups estimate the number to number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

“This [the Tiananmen Square massacre] is a very dark page in human history, not just Chinese history, ”Steve Tsang, director of the Chinese Institute of the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, told CNN on Friday. .

“Everyone is wrong here. The fellows should never have agreed to auction something like that to begin with… the owner should never have auctioned it. Anyone trying to profit from the massacre should have so much. shame.”

The fellows declared that she considered the watch “of international interest” and that it “recalled the events of June 1989”.

“In the past, we have sold war medals from all sides of world conflicts, a ring commemorating the regicide of Charles I and watches acquired from prisoners of war. It is not for us to comment on the events of the past. This is important to We must shed light on historical events and report on them in a respectful and impartial manner, ”the auction house said in the statement.

Tsang was not impressed with this defense, suggesting that such sales were just as wrong in the past.

“By someone misbehaving and drawing people’s attention to this event, that’s the only positive thing that comes out of this story,” he concluded.

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