Jiang Yanyong is a seventy-two-year-old army physician in China. He became a hero to many people in 2003 when he spoke out against the Chinese government’s refusal to deal openly with the epidemic of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
For more than a month, Dr. Jiang has been unjustly jailed. He was taken into custody just before the fifteenth anniversary of the Chinese government’s brutal crackdown on demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 3rd and 4th, 1989. In February of this year, Dr. Jiang wrote a letter calling on the Chinese government to account for those whose lives were lost in the crackdown and to take responsibility for its actions. Hundreds of unarmed demonstrators were killed in 1989 when Chinese army forces suppressed the peaceful pro-democracy protests. Many other people were wounded, and thousands were arrested.
In 1989, Jiang Yanyong was working at a hospital near Tiananmen Square. He wrote that he had treated many of the students who were shot by Chinese army troops on the night of June 3rd and 4th. “I won’t be able to forget this for the rest of my life,” he wrote. In his letter, Dr. Jiang says the students’ injuries were especially severe because they “were not caused by ordinary bullets, but by the fragmentation bullets of the kind banned by international convention.”
Dr. Jiang says the peaceful protesters in 1989 were voicing “their just demand for fighting corruption and bureaucratic racketeering and for promoting honest government.” He says that Chinese leaders “acted in a frenzied fashion, using tanks, machine guns, and other weapons to suppress the totally unarmed citizens.” Along with other Chinese, Dr. Jiang has called on the government to reverse its position that the peaceful demonstrations were a so-called “rebellion.” He says the record should be corrected to recognize the student movement as “patriotic.”
U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli says it is time for the Chinese government “to reassess” the Tiananmen events:
“The right of people to participate in government decisions that affect their lives, the right of people to have a say in who leads them. To live in a nation governed by law, and to be able to speak and write freely, to express their views without persecution.”
These issues need to be dealt with as China seeks to become a more modern and progressive nation.