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The Legacy Of Tianamen Square


Chinese students link arms in solidarity at dawn in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, April 22, 1989.

"Many who stood on the square that day, asking only for the freedom to speak their minds and to have a say, are still harassed and others are unaccounted for.”

“As the Democracy Award is a replica of the Goddess of Democracy — the statue erected by students in Tiananmen Square [on May 29, 1989] — it’s appropriate that we think of China, and remember those tragic events 25 years ago,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Tom Malinowski. He was speaking at the National Endowment for Democracy’s 2014 Democracy Award event in Washington, DC.

“On June 4th, we were mesmerized, because there on the [TV] screen, live in Beijing, was a young man stopping tanks with a gesture of his hand. For the first time, the world watched history unfold in real time. And we have ever since. That is one legacy of Tiananmen,” he said.

Twenty five years after the violent suppression of demonstrations in Tiananmen Square by Chinese authorities, we should remember the tragic loss of innocent lives and reflect upon the meaning of the events that preceded the violent suppression.

Hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets for weeks, in Beijing and around the country, first to honor the late reformist leader Hu Yaobang and then to demand basic human rights denied to them.

“Since then, China has changed in so many ways,” Assistant Secretary Malinowski said. “It has built a modern economy, lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, become an influential power, a partner on many issues we care about. Yet many who stood on the square that day, asking only for the freedom to speak their minds and to have a say, are still harassed and others are unaccounted for.”

“If there is still any disagreement on this point, it is only between the Chinese and American governments, not between the Chinese and American people,” Mr. Malinowski said.

“As China grows more integrated with the world, its economic, environmental and security problems will be our problems, too. Those kinds of problems only get solved where governments allow civil society to flourish, and people to communicate, and journalists to write, and judges to judge, freely without interference of political leaders. While it is the Chinese people who have the most to gain by seeing this happen, we [also] have a stake.”
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