Government reverses ban on Tiananmen performance

Singapore Democrats

The Government had initially banned an art project that was to mark the 20th anniversary of the massacre of students and protesters at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. The decision was, however, reversed later in the day.

The organisers were informed of the ban today because the event, to be held at The Substation this Thursday, was deemed “inappropriate”. The reason given is because it is located in a government-owned building.

The reversal, the Singapore Democrats understand, was because the Government did not want the bad publicity that the ban would attract as it was part of a worldwide project.

Entitled “Tank Man Tango”, the project is scheduled to be held in places like Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Taichung (Taiwan), Seoul, Weimar, Leipzig, London, Bristol, Washington DC, and Mexico City.

On 4 Jun 89, the Chinese government sent in tanks to clear Tiananmen Square which had been taken over by thousands of mainly student protesters calling for political and economic reforms. It is estimated that as many as 3,000 demonstrators were killed by the army.

The iconic image that came from the infamous episode was a man who stood in front of a column of tanks, clutching only a plastic bag, to temporarily prevent the armour from entering the Square. Hence, the title “Tank Man Tango” which, according to the organisers, is a “stylised recreation” of the steps of the Tank Man. Watch video here.

It is understood that the PAP Government remains unhappy about the decision to allow the event to go ahead but feels that it would not be worth the international criticism if the ban stayed.

Activists had already vowed to hold the event at Speakers’ Corner if the performance at The Substantion was prohibited. Activist Mr Seelan Palay had written to the National Parks Board to stage the event.

Perhaps, the PAP calculated that the ban would have created a bigger stir and attracted more people than it otherwise would. Did it learn its lesson from banning and seizing videos like Singapore Rebel and One Nation Under Lee?

It probably figured that the ban would not stop the event from going ahead at the Speakers’ Corner – with a bigger audience – and the PAP would still end up an international laughing stock. Conclusion: Not worth it.

In any event, Singaporeans should make their way to The Substation on 4 Jun 09 to see for themselves what the fuss is all about:

Tank Man Tango: June 4, 1989 anniversary commemoration at The Substation

As a way of commemorating this anniversary, The Substation is participating in a worldwide public art project to be performed in the cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Taichung (Taiwan), Seoul, Singapore, Weimar, Leipzig, London, Bristol, Washington DC, and Mexico City.

On June 4, 2009, from 6.30 to 9pm in The Substation theatre, come join us to learn and perform the Tank Man Tango together as an artwork and a vigil; or come for conversation, and share memories and perspectives. The Tank Man Tango is a simple, stylised recreation of the steps of the Tank Man as he defied the tanks. The video can be found on:

Then on June 5, join us at The Substation Gallery between 12 noon and 9pm: we will be erecting replicas of the Goddess of Democracy statue from a D-I-Y kit, filling the gallery space with them.

Everyone is invited.

Documentation from both days will be uploaded onto the memorial website:

%d bloggers like this: