Today,June 4th, is the sixteenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing.
In April 1989, a massive and peaceful pro-democracy demonstration was begun by Chinese students. They were quickly joined by workers, intellectuals, and civil servants, until over a million people filled Tiananmen square. The demonstrations soon spread to more than three-hundred Chinese cities. On the night of June 3rd and the morning of June 4th, Chinese authorities sent in troops and tanks to end the demonstrations. Hundreds, perhaps thousands were killed. Thousands of others were arrested.
According to current estimates, as many as two-hundred-and-fifty Chinese are still serving prison sentences for Tiananmen-related activities. The world does not know the exact numbers of those killed, wounded or arrested because, sixteen years later, the government of China still has not provided an accounting. Instead, the government has imposed a near complete blackout of information about the event.
Since 1989, China has pursued a policy of economic liberalization with impressive annual growth. But this has not been matched by a broader political opening or tolerance of diverse viewpoints. Even though Chinese, in post-Tiananmen China, are now enjoying personal freedoms previously denied them, freedom of speech, belief, and association remain strictly controlled. Punishment for violating the rules can be harsh.
U.S. policy toward China is clear. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, “We have no problem with a strong, confident, economically powerful China; in fact, we want a strong, economically vital, and vibrant China because for the world economy and prosperity in the region and globally, that’s a very important factor. Obviously," said Ms. Rice, "we still have unresolved differences on human rights, on religious freedom. We believe that as China becomes a more open economy, more open to the world, it is going to be a natural development that China will also have to open its political system.”
Perhaps President George W. Bush put it best: “We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: the survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.” A free China will be good for China, and good for the world.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.