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“Remembering” Tiananmen Square

We interrupt the march of global commerce for this reality check: One, and only one, of the world’s leading economic powers remains a police state governed by force and fear.

Chinese security forces were at full snarling alert today as they tried to prevent the world from acknowledging the violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square exactly 20 years ago. The Associated Press reports that plainclothes police cursed and threatened to beat journalists who tried to approach the square in the heart of Beijing. Censors shut down Twitter, Flickr and other social networking sites. In hotels across the country, CNN International was blacked out whenever it aired a story about Tiananmen.

Dissidents were detained at the borders and across the country, and families who lost loved ones were prevented from commemorating the anniversary. In Hong Kong, where freedom of assembly persists 12 years after China reclaimed sovereignty from Britain, organizers said 150,000 people turned out for a candlelight vigil. Civic authorities did not provide a crowd estimate.

After U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on China to examine openly the events of two decades ago, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang denounced her “gross interference in China’s internal affairs.” But, as the AP reports, he also denied any special significance to the date, saying “today is like any other day.”

We now return to our regularly scheduled program of pretending that free enterprise can thrive without free expression. China remains America’s second-largest trading partner and largest supplier of imported goods. We sold $14 billion and bought $64 billion of goods from China in the first three months of 2009. The Shanghai Stock Exchange composite index was down 0.41% today.

Larry M. Elkin is the founder and president of Palisades Hudson, and is based out of Palisades Hudson’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida headquarters. He wrote several of the chapters in the firm’s recently updated book, Looking Ahead: Life, Family, Wealth and Business After 55. His contributions include Chapter 1, “Looking Ahead When Youth Is Behind Us,” and Chapter 4, “The Family Business.” Larry was also among the authors of the firm’s book The High Achiever’s Guide To Wealth.

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