For the past five years, I have written blogs to honor the young Chinese who sacrificed their lives to bring democracy to China. But the sad reality is that after 30 years, the Chines people don’t know the truth about the events on Tienanmen Square, and the Communist repression is increasing.
Beijing. June 3, 1989. The night was hot, humid … and long; very long.
As dusk reluctantly gave way to the darkness, the 109-acre Tienanmen Square looked like a gigantic, steaming cauldron; the heat trapped by the concrete slabs during the day, painstakingly evaporating into the evening’s somewhat cooler air. From the distance, scattered lampposts shone a little dim light on the huge square.
Thousands of students and protesters remained in the square after the police cars left. Since late afternoon, more and more police cars had been patrolling the area while the loudspeakers kept booming out an annoying, male voice warning protesters to leave the square and go home.
After 50 days of peaceful protests and pleading, nothing had drastically changed. The Chinese government kept rejecting any talks or dialog with the protests’ leaders, who called for democracy and freedom in China. The petition for a free and democratic China was completely ignored.
A couple of weeks before, three student leaders who represented thousands and millions of protesters, had made a formal petition to the Communist Party asking for respect of the people’s fundamental human rights, freedom of speech, increased government’s transparency and accountability, and penalizing corrupt government officials. For hours on end, they knelt down on the enormous marble stairs outside the entrance to the Great Hall of the People, the seat of the Chinese Congress. .
To kneel and bow down is how the Chinese people show the utmost respect for the authorities and beg the ruling class to accept their good wishes and petitions. This gesture has existed for more than 2,000 years. In Chinese history, such petitioners called for social justice, but often ended up being further oppressed and persecuted to death. The Communist Party, like the emperors of old, has no tolerance for such acts of “disobedience.”
It was getting late, but that night, for some reason, we felt jittery. I talked with a girl from a medical school, at a nearby small tent. “How long do you think the students on hunger strike can survive?” I asked. She seemed to have some medical experience, and told me calmly, “Uh… they’ll be OK as long as they drink water.” We talked a little about our future. We dreamed this protest would end soon and our government would accept our petitions. Feeling hungry and exhausted, I left her and went to see my parents, who lived about seven blocks from the square.
Next thing I remember, the streets of Beijing were filled with the rattling noise of machine guns, the rumbling of tanks and the cries of wounded and dying demonstrators. Those scenes can be seen on the Internet all over the world, except inside China. Twenty-seven years have passed; the Chinese government is still lying. “No one died in Tiananmen Square.” I, together with thousands of college students, was told after the massacre. We were forced to attend brainwashing meetings for one month, eight hours a day, every day, seven days a week.
To this day, the Communist Party continues to outlaw any discussion or remembrance of those who were brutally killed that night or were thrown in prison in the aftermath. The government fears any sign of “weakness” would affect its grip on power. No public investigation has even been held and the precise death toll remains a mystery. As Lee Edwards from Heritage Foundation wrote in his article The Tiananmen Square Massacre Still Matters: “How many pro-democracy students died that blood-stained June morning? Hundreds? Thousands? The number is still concealed by the government, which insists that the army was called out to put down so-called ‘hooligans’ and disturbers of the public order.”
Three decades later, the mothers who lost their sons in the Tiananmen Massacre are still spied upon, detained and threatened by security agents, just because they want to tell the world the truth.
On May 31, 2016, at least three activists were detained in Beijing after attending a remembrance event where they were photographed under a banner reading: “Don’t forget the wounds of the country.” Last week, a man in southwest China was arrested on subversion charges after he shared online photographs of bottles of Chinese liquor with labels alluding to the Tiananmen crackdown in 1989. A mother, whose 17-year-old son was shot through the heart in the massacre, has been confined to her Beijing home by the police all these days.
The Chinese government has launched this brutal repression, just because people want to hold an annual campaign to memorialize the dead and protest against the authoritarian regime. When human right activists bravely speak out, the government uses its power to crush them and persecute them. Silencing political dissidents in China is a proverbial “piece of cake”– making up a crime, sentencing them to jail, torturing them in prison, forcing them to “confess” on TV, ostracizing them, harassing their families, denying them employment, and depriving them of their basic needs, such as medical treatment.
Although China has become the second largest economy in the world, no progress has been made as far as respect for human rights is concerned. Eighty percent of the Chinese economy is controlled by the government, which still suppresses basic human rights like a free press, religious liberty, open elections, an independent legislative body, etc. The government is still covering up the truth and quelling dissent.
To the dismay of people who want a free China, today, the democracies of the Western world are becoming increasingly tolerant and accommodating of the dictatorship of the Chinese Communist Party. Some even accept China’s so-called “non-Western democracy.” Some “experts” claim that the distinctive form of democracy in China is more stable and efficient than the individualistic and adversarial model of Western democracy. To me, to the brave dissidents who fight inside China, to the millions of my fellow Chinese who silently endure the Communist tyranny, such comparison is not only immoral; it is revolting. The people of the free world must wake up.
The Chinese government may want to make the world believe that the Tiananmen massacre never happened.
I know better; I was there.
(Photo: The bodies of dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989, after the government cracked down on pro-democracy protesters in the capital. | AP)