Every year, as June 4 approaches, I write articles to commemorate the 1989 pro-democracy student movement in China. The Tiananmen Massacre occurred on June 4th, 34 years ago. As a Chinese living outside of China, I have the privilege of “witnessing” the amazing courage of Tank Man and learning the true history of the event. I have the privilege of freedom, and along with that privilege, the obligation to speak out for the oppressed in China and continue advocating for China to change into a democratic system.
This year, out of curiosity, I asked ChatGPT to write 300 words about the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre. ChatGPT is a type of artificial intelligence. It is a model that is trained to follow an instruction in a prompt and provide a detailed response. As a chatbot, ChatGPT can interact with a human in a conversational way.
ChatGPT’s Description of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre
The 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre remains a dark chapter in the history of modern China. It was a pro-democracy movement that took place in Beijing, where thousands of Chinese students, intellectuals, and citizens gathered in Tiananmen Square to demand political reforms and an end to corruption.
The protest, which began in April 1989, was initially peaceful and filled with hope for change. However, as the movement gained momentum and the demands for democracy grew louder, the Chinese government, led by the Communist Party, felt threatened by the growing influence and potential instability. On June 3rd and 4th, the government responded with a brutal crackdown.
Troops armed with rifles and tanks were deployed to suppress the protest. They used tear gas, batons, and live ammunition against the unarmed demonstrators. The exact number of casualties remains uncertain due to the government’s efforts to suppress information, but estimates range from hundreds to thousands of people killed, with many more injured or imprisoned.
The events of the Tiananmen Square Massacre shocked the world and drew widespread condemnation. Images of the “Tank Man,” a lone protester who stood in front of a column of tanks, became an iconic symbol of resistance and defiance. However, the Chinese government swiftly censored news and information about the event within the country, making it difficult for the Chinese people to access accurate information.
The repercussions of the Tiananmen Square Massacre are still felt today. The Chinese government’s suppression of the pro-democracy movement resulted in increased censorship, tighter control over the media, and limited freedom of speech. The event remains a taboo topic in China, and any mention or commemoration of the massacre is strictly forbidden.
Despite the government’s efforts to erase the memory of the event, the international community continues to remember and condemn the tragedy. The Tiananmen Square Massacre serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding human rights and freedom of expression, and the ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in China.
Unfortunately, ChatGPT Is Banned in China.
As a Chinese national who witnessed and participated in the student movement in 1989, I would say that ChatGPT wrote a good essay about that event. It is accurate and informative. However, all the descriptions about how China has violated human rights and cracked down on human rights activists are known by people living in the free world, but for the people living in Communist China, that knowledge has been suppressed for decades. Naturally, I asked ChatGPT a follow-up question, “Can people use ChatGPT in China and see what you described?” ChatGPT paused for a second and wrote swiftly:
Access to ChatGPT and similar platforms in China may be restricted or heavily monitored due to the country’s extensive internet censorship measures. The Great Firewall of China, a sophisticated system of internet controls, is designed to block or limit access to certain websites and online services, including those deemed politically sensitive or critical of the Chinese government.
While I, as an AI language model, can provide information about various topics, it is important to note that my responses are based on general knowledge and may not reflect the current situation in China due to the limitations on information and censorship. Access to platforms like ChatGPT can be subject to strict controls, and individuals in China may face challenges in using such services freely.
It is advisable for individuals in China to exercise caution and be aware of the local laws and regulations regarding internet usage and access to information. Using virtual private networks (VPNs) or other circumvention tools to bypass censorship may also be subject to legal restrictions.
At this point, ChatGPT completed its “mission” as a neutral opinion robot. However, the advice offered by the chatbot represents the sad, regrettable mentality of many who enjoy freedom of speech: urging others who don’t caution and de facto acceptance of the “laws and regulations” of regimes that brutally repress human rights. I often wonder how Americans would react if faced with similar circumstances: 1776 comes to mind. When people are arrested by the police and sentenced to jail terms only because they want to find out truth using VPNs, we, particularly Chinese individuals who have the privilege of liberty and freedom, should boldly take actions to push for the end of such dictatorships, and cry out to free the oppressed.
Without Knowing the Truth, How Can We Be Free?
ChatGPT points out that “The Tiananmen Square Massacre serves as a reminder of the importance of upholding human rights and freedom of expression, and the ongoing struggle for democracy and justice in China.” If we follow ChatGPT’s advice, we would have to accept and follow the Communist Party’s rules and restrain ourselves from learning the true stories about the Tiananmen Square Massacre. If we do so, this historical event would never be a reminder of the importance of upholding human rights and freedom of expression. We can never expect democracy and justice to happen in China if the people cannot learn the truth.
Jesus said, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Without knowing the truth, we, Chinese, can never be free.
Tear Down the Great Firewall!
ChatGPT, however, described precisely the existence of a Great Firewall of China. The firewall reminds us of the 20th century Berlin Wall. In 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) built the concrete wall, the official purpose of which was to keep so-called Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state. (We all know that the Berlin Wall was built to imprison the citizens of East Berlin and prevent them from fleeing to West Berlin.) Today, the Chinese Communist government uses the Great Firewall to block truth and keep “Western democracy” from entering mainland China. It is a virtual version of the Berlin Wall.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan spoke at Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate in view of the Berlin Wall, and delivered a message to Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” President Reagan spoke this in a brave and peaceful tone. Two years later, the Berlin Wall fell.
On November 9, 1989, the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. “That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself.”
President Reagan’s historic speech has encouraged people all over the world to pursue freedom for all mankind. In today’s Information Age and AI Era, the first step to free the people of China is to tear down the Great Firewall.
I dream of the day when all Chinese can freely surf the internet.
I dream of the day when all Chinese can search any information about the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, and openly commemorate those brave students and individuals who died for a Chinese democratic system.
I dream of the day when the Tank Man’s dream comes true.
“Mr. Xi, tear down the firewall!”