Tuesday marks the 30-year anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square, when China’s Communist government violently cracked down on student-led protests for greater political freedom in a regime that was starting to experiment with openness and liberalization.
We still don’t know the total number of those killed or injured by their government that day. Estimates put the death toll anywhere from hundreds to 2,600. As many as 10,000 may have perished, according to a diplomatic cable released in 2017.
The day will forever be immortalized by the image of a man holding grocery bags standing in front of a line of tanks. His fate and identity are still unknown.
Tank Man: the full footage. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, 1989.
Thirty years later, we know neither his identity nor his fate.
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) June 2, 2019
And today, the Chinese government continues to grossly abuse the human rights of its citizens while the rest of the world watches.
Right now, between one and two million Uyghur Muslims are currently languishing in concentration camps.
Beijing also reportedly tightened its control over Tibetan Buddhism in 2018, according to observers, and pursues “a strategy of forced assimilation and suppression of Tibetan Buddhism throughout Tibet.”
“Throughout 2018, authorities harassed, detained, and intimidated Falun Gong practitioners simply for practicing their beliefs,” explains the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. “There were reports that many of the detainees suffered physical violence, psychiatric abuse, sexual assault, forced drug administration, and sleep deprivation.”
The Chinese government routinely jails dissidents, leading the world in political prisoners in 2018. Freedom House notes that “in its attitude toward political dissent, the Chinese Communist Party has proven much harsher than the old Soviet regime of the Brezhnev era.”
Still today, people who speak up about what happened in June 1989 have a bad habit of disappearing. Those are just a handful of examples.
Sadly, while in the past three decades, China has moved away from a communist economy, the country has not moved away from its authoritarian tendencies.
“The events of thirty years ago still stir our conscience, and the conscience of freedom-loving people around the world,” reads an apt statement from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about the massacre. “Over the decades that followed, the United States hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society. Those hopes have been dashed. China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests.”
Thirty years after the world watched in horror, we should not forget either the abuses the Chinese government committed then or the ones that still continue today.