Why the FBI Shut Down the US June 4th Movement

june 4Bodies from Tienanmen Square

There has been massive corporate media coverage in the last few days of the 25th anniversary of the June 4, 1989 massacre in Tienanmen Square. The US has always had a very schizophrenic reaction to Chinese human rights violations. Much has been written about the underground June 4th movement that arose in China following the massacre. However you never read anything about the parallel June 4th movement that emerged in the US in the months after Tienanmen Square. It was led by Chinese university and graduate students on campuses all over the US – with the support of American pro-civil liberties advocates across the political spectrum.

For two to three months, it got extensive mainstream media coverage. I recall seeing an article in the Seattle Times about an upcoming meeting at the University of Washington. I planned to attend but came down with the flu.

By September 1989, the US June 4th movement had vanished without a trace. I found this extremely odd until six months later, we learned from a retired FBI investigator exactly how the federal agency had shut it down.

It was quite simple really. The FBI went to all the Chinese students attending the June 4th meetings and told them their student visas would be revoked unless they agreed to inform on the other activists. This is a very old strategy – still in use today (see  FBI allegedly using no-fly list to recruit Muslim snitches). Unsurprisingly the students chose to keep their visas and disband the movement.

Why Bush Senior Shut Down June 4th

So why did Bush senior want the US June 4th movement shut down? In 1989 the President was engaged in major trade negotiations with China. Their big fear was that an American movement would translate into major political and financial support for China’s underground democracy movement. To consummate the trade agreements, Bush senior had to guarantee this wouldn’t happen.

The FBI has a long history of spying on peace and social justice activists. The operation that shut down down the June 4th movement in the US is but one of many examples I discuss in my 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of An American Refugee

photo credit: undersound via photopin cc

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