It’s been 30 years since the government of China violently suppressed pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. Pro-democracy protesters, including students, workers, and civil servants gathered in the capital to demand political change, an end to corruption, and respect for fundamental human rights.
We do not know how many people were killed in the violent confrontation, which was followed by a roundup of protest participants. Chinese authorities have tried to expunge the event from China’s official history by censoring discussion of what occurred, and by making sure no commemorations take place in China.
But the world remembers what occurred during those violent days in June 1989. It remembers the iconic photograph taken from a Beijing hotel room of a single young man standing up to a Chinese army tank – a photograph capturing the valor on display in Tiananmen.
In an interview, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Scott Busby paid tribute to the protesters:
“We salute the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights. Their courage has served as an inspiration to future generations calling for freedom and democracy in China and around the world.”
Mr. Busby observed that China’s human rights practices have not improved since 1989:
“There continue to be severe constraints on freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of religion in China, and indeed in recent years we think there’s been a deterioration in respect for human rights rather than an improvement.”
Deputy Assistant Secretary Busby urged the government of China “to release all those seeking to exercise their human rights…halt the use of arbitrary detention, and reverse counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with religious and political expression, particularly in the Xinjiang region.
“China’s own constitution stipulates that all power belongs to the people,” Mr. Busby added. “History has shown that nations are stronger when governments are responsive to their citizens, respect the rule of law and uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms.”