Still, the wheelchair man's arrest Thursday was a small reminder that Beijing is not ready to accept the ghosts of what it refers to laconically as "the June 4 incident." Security has been tightened even further at the home of Zhao Ziyang, the disgraced former party general secretary who has been under house arrest for the past nine years. Meanwhile Hong Kong, experiencing its first Tiananmen anniversary under Chinese rule, prepares for its own demonstration Thursday evening. The People's Liberation Army's response will be crucial: If it is muted, it will constitute the first official acceptance of mourning for the massacre.
Around this date in 1989, a lone protester stood in front of a column of four Chinese tanks in Tiananmen Square. On June 4, 1998, a lone protester sat in a wheelchair near the Monument to the People's Heroes at the heart of the same Square, handing out leaflets. He wasn't even protesting the massacre; his leaflets demanded compensation for a crippling shooting in the southeastern Fujian province. Like his predecessor, he was dragged away, kicking and screaming, by the authorities. Unlike his predecessor, he lived to protest another day.