Friday, June 2, 2017

Tiananmen Square Massacre at 28

In memory of those who stood up for their rights, lost their lives and for those still unjustly imprisoned today in China.

Students peacefully demonstrating in Tiananmen in 1989
Tiananmen Square and the events of June 1989 remain a censored topic in mainland China, but now one finds that "mistaken" censorship is also taking place outside of communist China. On May 11, 2017 The Wall Street Journal reported in the article "China Tells Facebook to ‘Come Learn From Us’ on Censoring Content " that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg "has tried everything" to get Facebook Inc unblocked in China.  Days later on May 26, 2017 Facebook rejected a Hong Kong activist's profile picture frame referencing the Tiananmen massacre. Following an outcry Facebook apologized and approved the image.

Image "mistakenly" censored by Facebook
What are so many so desperate to forget?

Twenty eight years ago the Communist leadership of China opened fire on the Chinese people. The Pro-Democracy Movement that had taken to the streets in April of 1989 was violently crushed by the Chinese communist dictatorship beginning on the evening of June 3, 1989. By dawn on June 4, 1989 scores of demonstrators had been shot and killed or run over and crushed by tanks of the so-called People's Liberation Army, the blood of students and workers splattered and flowed in the streets of Beijing. The Chinese Red Cross had initially counted 2,600 dead when they were pressured to stop by Chinese officials and silenced on this matter.

Liu Xiaobo, the imprisoned Nobel Peace laureate, is currently jailed for his continued non-violent activism but had already served a prison sentence for his participation in the 1989 Tiananmen student protest. On June 2, 1989 Liu Xiaobo and three others entered Tiananmen Square and started a hunger strike at 5:00pm reading a lengthy proclamation excerpted below:
We start our hunger strike. We protest. We call upon people. We repent. We are not looking for death, we are looking for the true life. Under the irrational militant violence by the Li Peng regime, Chinese intellectuals must end their all-words-but-no-action tradition of osteomalacia. We must protest the military rule with our actions. We must give birth to a brand new political culture with our own actions. 
Powerful international interests sided with the Beijing dictatorship and helped to perpetuate totalitarian rule in China.  One high profile example at the time was former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who persuaded the Bush Administration to downplay the human rights considerations surrounding the Beijing Massacre and to focus on the economic and strategic relationship. One month after the massacre on July 4, 1989 George H.W. Bush sent a secret high level delegation to meet with the Chinese regime and join with them in celebrating American independence.   

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) published a October 1, 1989 article revealing Kissinger's direct business ties to Communist China and his defense of the regime and justification of the massacre. FAIR reported how on August 1, 1989 this business consultant who also heads "China Ventures" [that engages China's state bank in joint ventures] wrote a column that appeared in The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times claiming that "The Caricature of Deng as a Tyrant Is Unfair."

Democrats proved no better on China.  

President Carter normalized relations between Washington and Beijing on January 1, 1979. China's one child policy that systematically violates the reproductive rights of all Chinese was first applied in 1979. The conventional belief then with regards to China was that normal relations would lead to a greater opening for human rights and a peaceful transition to democracy. The opposite has been the case. In China the policy of trade and political engagement has led to a thriving economic system under Communist party control and modernization and expansion of both the military and police state to continue repressing the Chinese people.

President Carter meeting with future author of Tiananmen massacre, Deng Xiaoping
Ten years after Carter succeeded in normalizing relations with the communist dictatorship in China that same regime on June 4, 1989 engaged in a massive crackdown killing thousands of Chinese students and workers who had been non-violently protesting corruption and demanding democratic reforms. American Independence while downplaying pro-forma criticisms made by the Administration. Candidate Bill Clinton would critique this de-linkage of human rights and commercial interests by the Bush Administration only to intensify the practice during his own presidency on May 26, 1994. This reached a symbolic low point in 1996 when the General responsible for the 1989 massacre was received at the Clinton White House with a 19 gun salute

This failure of the United States government and much of the Western world sacrificed human rights and decency for the sake of economic interests. Leaving it to civil society, the press and non-governmental organizations to try and take up the slack. The outcome has been a steady deterioration of human rights and freedoms around the world. China is now a rising superpower with a regime that has blood on its hands and refuses to recognize, apologize or repent for its past crimes including the events surrounding Tiananmen.  

Twenty eight years later and it remains up to civil society, and the press to remember and continue to demand justice. In Hong Kong hundreds of thousands will take to the streets in memory of those who stood up for their rights, lost their lives and freedom on June 4, 1989. 

Elie Wiesel in his 1986 Nobel Lecture explained why this date should be remembered: "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." 

Vigil in Hong Kong on June 4th to remember Tiananmen
 In China four activists were indicted and jailed for producing and promoting their own baijiu (a popular Chinese liquor) that commemorated the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown. Amnesty International declared them prisoners of conscience on May 17, 2017 and have a campaign underway #ToastToRememberin order to observe the anniversary of the June 4, 1989 Beijing massacre.

#ToastToRemember in order to Remember #Tiananmen


No comments:

Post a Comment