Friends of the people of China,
Thirty-one years ago today, hard-liners in Beijing ordered the military to crush a pro-democracy demonstration in Tiananmen Square – ending the longest and largest protest in modern Chinese history. The protests weren’t in Beijing only, but also in about 200 other communities across the country.
For seven weeks, people had filled the Square, seeking to improve human rights, build democracy, and end corruption. Their movement attracted up to a million supporters in the capital alone. There was a sense of invincibility… that somehow they were on the cusp of a major change.
Tragically, the People’s Liberation Army rolled in to crush their dreams. The Statue of Liberty was toppled; the most credible estimate of deaths now appears to be about 10,000 (1). Soldiers unleashed fire, clearing the square and forcing everyone to run for their lives.
Brave protesters carried the wounded any way they could, but many could not escape. The world outside China watched the stunning events.
‘Tank Man’ – the icon of resistance – initially won the battle, but the war continued for days.
The uprising had a profound impact on China and its relations with the rest of the world. There will be no reporting of Tiananmen’s legacy today in Beijing or anywhere across China.
It’s incumbent on the democratic world us to remember those who were murdered and the survivors who witnessed it….
· The panicked protesters struggling on bicycles or on foot to carry their bloodied friends to hospitals,
· a gun-happy soldier quickly shooting three young female students, kneeling down in front of him, and then an old man,
· an eye-witness doctor, who’d been ordered to stay home, heard the shooting and screams and resolved to return to her hospital to help the injured. Drawing near, she could see through windows bodies being stacked like cordwood inside. The traumatic experience led her to flee China forever, trying to erase from her memory the sights.
And on and on…. We must continue our vigils and prayers for the victims and the survivors of Tiananmen.
We must not let these images die.
Minxin Pei, originally from Shanghai and now a professor of government in California, believes the movement came close to overthrowing CCP rule.
Pei thinks the CCP has subsequently learned some negative lessons. One is that whenever it sees signs of trouble it cracks down immediately and violently. Since Tiananmen, there have been numerous spontaneous protests, most of which met strong repression from the regime. None has
developed into anything close to Tiananmen Square, but the CCP has also moved on to harass and persecute other groups.
During the decade following 1989, the Falun Gong movement emerged, partly thanks to government support growing to include 70-100 million persons across China by the government’s own estimate. In July 1999, it became almost overnight the target of massive persecution by the CCP – an ongoing campaign that continues to include organ harvesting from non- consenting practitioners.
Since 2017, an estimated 1-3 million Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang (Turkestan) have been thrown into what are in reality concentration camps. There are strong indications that some of them are being used as involuntary organ “donors” and as forced labour for products made in Xinjiang and sold in democracies.
Under Xi, the persecution of Christians is also intensifying, including those known as ‘house Christians’.
Tibetans with a clear sense of ethno-cultural identity and a belief that they deserve at least greater autonomy are under harsh domination.
The CCP now also believes that to counter democracy/rule of law it must stir up nationalism. That’s another ongoing tragedy of Tiananmen because, in the last three decades, we’ve seen moderate, technocratic reformists, but we haven’t seen anybody within the CCP championing political reform as leaders in the 1980s did.
As we know, Xi Jinping now seeks to keep China unified by keeping its 50 plus cultural communities under heel and continuing his ‘great leap backwards’.
Let all of us meeting today hope that the legacies of the brave young people at Tiananmen continue to serve as inspiration for present and future Chinese reformers.
Thank you. (www.david-kilgour.com)
(1)- See :/https/www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-asia-china-42465516? fbclid=IwAR3Grn1_qoJ3pMiPHDfN7D_H4llLiKmCmshs-1oXobfZgTLZ_c q6IFTSFzs
PBS June 4, 2019 “30 years later, the ‘lasting tragedy’ of Tiananmen Square” https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/30-years-later-the-lasting-tragedy-of-tiananmen-square
BBC News Beijing June 1, 2019 John Sudworth Tiananmen 30 years on – China’s great act of ‘forgettance’ https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-48455582
David Skidmore (https://thediplomat.com/2020/04/the-1989-tiananmen-crackdown-was-not- inevitable/)