June 4th is the seventeenth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, China.
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, 1989, Chinese authorities sent in troops and tanks to end the demonstrations. Hundreds, perhaps thousands were killed. Thousands of others were arrested.
According to the U.S. State Department, some non-governmental organizations believe as many as two hundred people remain in prison for political activities connected to the Tiananmen Square demonstrations. The world does not know the exact numbers of killed, wounded or arrested in connection with the Tiananmen events because, 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 broad economic liberalization with impressive annual growth. But this has not been matched by political reform or increased respect for the internationally recognized fundamental freedoms of Chinese citizens. In fact, the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report found an increased trend toward “harassment, detention and imprisonment by government security authorities of those perceived as threatening to government authority.”
Even though the Chinese people, in post-Tiananmen China, are now enjoying personal freedoms previously denied them, freedom of speech, belief, and association remain tightly restricted. 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.”
President George W. Bush says it is important that social, political and religious freedoms grow in China and that the United States is encouraging China "to continue making the historic transition to greater freedom." 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.