Today marks the 31st anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing, China. On that fateful day, the true brutality of the Chinese Communist Party was on display for the whole world to see…and even as we remember that day’s events, China may be preparing to do it again.
Thirty years later, the Chinese regime is still repressive. Sadly, the people of Hong Kong are about to experience what it’s like to live under the authoritarianism of the Chinese Communist Party. The Chinese government just passed a resolution declaring that Beijing will essentially take direct control of the city-state, denying basic human rights to the citizens of Hong Kong.
Abusing human rights is the national pastime of the Chinese Communists. 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.
In 2018, 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 become increasingly 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 and made any commemoration of the slaughter illegal.
And yet, the world still remembers what happened…
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 democratic reforms.
Following the event, students marched 10 miles to occupy Tiananmen Square. The protest quickly 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, but 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, and when it comes to the overall death toll, they have been largely successful.
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 the soldiers rather than let them pass. As the tanks came at him, he didn’t move. The tanks then tried to go around the man, and he moved to intercept them. Eventually, the tanks slipped passed him, and the man walked off. In the following days, the whereabouts of the man who came to be known worldwide as “tank man” were not known, and he has not been seen since that day. It is assumed that he was killed outright or is still being held prisoner. No one knows for sure.
The demonstrators who were mowed down in Tiananmen Square shared the same thirst for freedom as the pro-democracy marchers in Hong Kong. For the sake of freedom around the world, let’s pray that the Hong Kong marchers don’t suffer the same fate.