Donald Trump has ominously suggested that his supporters will riot if he is not handed the nomination regardless of whether he has a majority of delegates. It wasn’t the first time he has elicited gasps of astonishment on the subject of riots. In the March 10 debate in Miami, when questioned about his previous take on the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre, Trump referred to the pro-democracy protest as a riot:
[JAKE] TAPPER: Mr. Trump, some of your Republican critics have expressed concern about comments you have made praising authoritarian dictators. You have said positive things about Putin as a leader, and about China’s massacre of pro-democracy protesters at Tiananmen Square, you’ve said: “When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it, then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength.”
How do you respond?
TRUMP: That doesn’t mean I was endorsing that. I was not endorsing it. I said that is a strong, powerful government that put it down with strength. And then they kept down the riot. It was a horrible thing. It doesn’t mean at all I was endorsing it.
This quote from the original Playboy interview puts Trump’s remarks in context:
“When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak … as being spit on by the rest of the world.”
Note how he immediately segues into America being “perceived as weak,” undermining the insincere “vicious” and “horrible” disclaimers.
In the same interview, he condemned Soviet dictator Mikhail Gorbachev for not being sufficiently tyrannical:
“That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.”
In contrast, ex-KGB colonel and current Russian strongman Vladimir Putin meets with Trump’s enthusiastic approval.
In the years since the killings, China’s ruling Communist Party has gone to extreme lengths to stop discussion about what happened that night. The word “Tiananmen” is censored online and stricken from many histories. When the incident is discussed, the official line — which is contested by scholars and conflicts with witness testimony — is that the protest was in fact a “riot” (or “anti-revolutionary riot“) and the People’s Liberation Army stepped in to keep the city safe.
Former leader of the Tiananmen Square protests Wu’er Kaixi has managed to resist Trump fever:
“Speaking personally, after 27 years in exile from that ‘riot’… I think I can speak for all fellow exiled and imprisoned Chinese in condemning Trump,” Wu’er wrote in a commentary posted on his official Facebook page.
“I am not alone in appealing to the very same Americans who offered Chinese such as myself refuge when our own government deserted us to put aside partisan disputes and unite against Trump,” the activist said. …
Wu’er lived in the US after fleeing China in the aftermath of the protests, but has resided in Taiwan for the past two decades.
He has tried to return to China on several occasions, but has been denied entry each time.
The Communist Party today under President Xi Jinping continues to block any activists advocating democratic reforms, and has tightened its grip on the media.
“Politically, in China, nothing has changed – if anything it has become worse in recent years,” Wu’er said.
For that we can thank what Trump calls “the power of stength.”
“Trump, a privileged comeback king from a litany of failed fast-buck business scams, is an enemy of the values that America deeply defines itself by: the same values that have long provided hope to the victims of oppressive power worldwide.
“Those of us who have fought for freedom anywhere in the world worry that something is about to change in America.”
The takeaway lesson for hardcore Trumpsters and other authoritarian statists: riots are good when you are trying to take power, but demonstrations should be depicted as riots and ruthlessly repressed when you are already in power.
On tips from Paula B and Torcer.