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From China's Migrant Workers, Silence on Tiananmen

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While the Tiananmen anniversary reverberates across Western media, for the migrant worker community of China, the day will pass almost ignored. This is a rather surprising reality given the harsh conditions and the general disenfranchisement most migrant workers feel in regards to the political leadership of the country. But to these workers who toil on a daily basis, their lives have little to no connection with the "high minded" demands of a largely student led movement in 1989. To the migrants, who are but steps away from crushing rural poverty, their lives are wholly sustained by the dream of someday accumulating enough wealth to allow for a better future for them and for their children.

Indeed, the dreams and hopes of the migrant community remain underpinned by the unspoken accord made between the CCP and the Chinese populace in the post-Tiananmen environment -- allowance for unfettered economic freedoms in return for acquiescence to the absolute rule of the Party. This post-Tiananmen accord provided a renewed and bolstered determination for economic liberalization that is precisely what attracts the migrants of the deeply impoverished countryside to the cities.

In addition, to the migrants, who have long suffered from the vagaries of political movements that have swept through and often swept up the countryside, calls for political upheaval are taken with a grain of salt. While in the past, revolutions have been for the benefit of the peasants, they have often done little to benefit their lives. As a result, esoteric and disconnected political rhetoric often falls on deaf ears. Past broken promises -- regardless of from whence they came -- generate a skepticism inimical to allegiance for future struggles. Moreover, the last time the students tried to run the show was during the Cultural Revolution, a period that remains one of the darkest chapters in most current migrants' lives. Clearly, although the goals of the students and the lives of the migrants are potentially congruous, the migrants, despite their potential force for change in Chinese society, are a group that has been ignored and will themselves likely ignore efforts made towards political liberalization. This silence is but a small part of the tacit agreement between China's rulers and its ruled for prosperity over democracy -- an agreement signed in blood on the night on June the 4th, 1989.