June 4 marks the 30-year anniversary of the horrific 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, but China shows no sign of remorse for the attack that killed thousands who attended the student-led protests.
Exact numbers are not known as the Chinese government has never revealed any information surrounding the massacre.
Additional security forces were stationed in and around Tiananmen Square in Beijing on June 4, as tourists flocked to the sight. When asked about the extra checks, a police officer told a reporter from The Guardian that “today is a bit special.”
The previous week however, China’s response was more direct. Speaking at a defence summit in Singapore, Chinese defence minister General Wei Fenghe defended the murder of the pro-democracy protesters as being the “correct” action to take. He continued to say that thanks to the incident, “China has undergone major changes” and benefitted from “stability and development.”
Comments like these only remind us why we need to commemorate the lives lost at Tiananmen Square and speak out against delusional infractions to democracy. Here are 4 others calling China out during the anniversary:
The Taiwanese Government
In a statement released on Monday, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said that China was telling "lies" about the 1989 massacre. "We earnestly admonish the Chinese authorities to face up to the historical mistake, and sincerely apologise as soon as possible," the council added, urging China to "proactively push for democratic reforms.” If China takes this step, Taiwan promised to support the country in "all manner of ways".
On June 3, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked China to provide details of the 1989 occurrence, including the numbers of deaths and those missing. If China could do this, he would recognize it as a step to “begin to demonstrate the Communist Party's willingness to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms."
Pompeo also asked that China releases those arrested for fighting human rights abuses, protesting for democracy and those kept in arbitrary detention.
In response, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on June 4 that Pompeo’s statement "maliciously attacks China's political system, denigrates the state of China's human rights and religious affairs, wantonly criticises China's Xinjiang policy and severely interferes in China's domestic affairs."
The Tank Man Photographer
Jeff Widener, the photographer behind the iconic image of a Chinese man standing in front of tanks during the 1989 protests has also spoken out against China days before the anniversary. He told AP that other countries that have made mistakes in history have “reconciled those problems” and that “it’s time for China to move forward and just come clean on what happened, report to the family members what happened to their loved ones so that they can put this to rest.”
Tat Ming Pair
Anthony Wong and Tats Lau make up the Hong Kong musical duo called Tat Ming Pair, and their most recent release “Is It A Crime” touches on the Tiananmen Square topic quite profoundly.
The song questions what constitutes a crime under China’s rule. At the screening of a documentary about the Tiananmen Square massacre in the last week, Wong said that “holding a candlelight vigil or just remembering what happened in the past could be a crime.”
The song was immediately banned in China, and the duo’s discography was removed from Apple Music in anticipation of the anniversary.
About three months ago, Chinese rock-folk singer Li Zhi went missing. He often references the topic of Tiananmen Square in his music with lyrics such as “now this square is my grave” and “everything is just a dream” commonly known as references to the massacre.
It all started when his tour was cancelled, his social media accounts were removed and his music was pulled off of all Chinese streaming sites, the South China Morning Post reports. Soon after in April, Sichuan’s culture department said it had to “urgently” cancel the 23 concerts of a well-known singer for “improper conduct.” Li Zhi had 23 concerts planned in the province.
These are just a few of the countless individuals asking China to come forth.
The advocacy group Chinese Human Rights Defenders told AFP that 13 individuals have been arrested or detained in the days prior to the anniversary. Among them was a filmmaker who was detained after tweeting images of a liquor bottle whose label alluded to the massacre’s date.
However, censorship and control of information remains unfortunately ingrained in the system. Take for example Bilibili, the Chinese video streaming site that announced last week that its real-time comments feature will be disabled until June 6 for “system upgrades.”