Today marks the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China.
It is easy to get caught up in debates about the merits of the trade war with China; to be dazzled by its economic growth and to analyze their geopolitical influence.
However, what is not talked about enough is the brutality of the communist regime. Thirty years later, the regime is still repressive.
According to Human Rights Watch:
Human rights defenders continue to endure arbitrary detention, imprisonment and enforced disappearance. The government maintains tight control over the internet, mass media and academia.
Authorities stepped up their persecution of religious communities, including prohibitions on Islam in Xinjian, suppression of Christians in Henan province and increasing scrutiny of Hui Muslims in Ningxia.
Just last year, the county’s President Xi Jinping indicated his intent to rule the communist country for life, after the legislature ended term limits for the presidency.
The country hasn’t made progress on ensuring human liberties since the Tiananmen Massacre, if anything, they have become more repressive.
The government has increasingly become paranoid that groups of Chinese citizens may take to the streets again — learning their lessons from Tiananmen — they have proactively suppressed possible opposition to their rule.
Tiananmen Square: 1989
The sequence of events leading up to the massacre began on April 17, 1989. On that day, students at Beijing University met to mourn the death of Xu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader who had been ousted for advocating for democratic reforms.
Following the event, students marched 10 miles to occupy Tiananmen Square. The protest spread to other cities.
The students were joined by thousands more and a sit-in ensued. The sit-in led to the government calling in the troops and declaring martial law.
On June 4, soldiers opened fire on the protesters. It is believed that thousands were killed; however, it is difficult to verify the actual total, because of the efforts of the Chinese Government to hide any trace of the massacre. They have sought to erase the event from history.
A photographer named Jian Liu photographed much of the carnage. He related the following account: “At a hospital I saw people who had been shot dead, their shoulders shattered and heads smashed. I put my camera away out of a sense of respect. Taking those photos is too disrespectful to them. I took photos of people whose bodies could still be considered complete.”
New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof covered the event for the Times. He described the carnage that he witnessed: “Then came the soldiers, firing not only on the crowds but even on families watching in horror from the balconies. Troops fired at ambulances rescuing the wounded. Winter fell on China, and in political terms it hasn’t left.”
Then there was the iconic photo of “tank man.”
On June 5, an ordinary Chinese citizen was walking across the square, grocery bags in hand. What happened next became a symbolic image for those seeking freedom everywhere.
The man did the unthinkable: He stood in front of a line of tanks. He was prepared to be run over or shot by them to prevent them from passing. As the tanks came at him, he didn’t move. The tanks then tried to go around the man, the man moved to match the tanks movement. Eventually the tanks got away, and the whereabouts of the man named “tank man” are not known. It is assumed that he was killed, or he’s still being held prisoner. But no one knows for sure.
On this day, we remember those who took a stand for freedom. It should make all Americans appreciate our freedoms here. Many nations on Earth do not possess the liberties we enjoy. Citizens in the world’s largest nation still live under the reign of an authoritarian regime. It is up to those who love freedom to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for liberty. Let us hope they didn’t die in vain.