Thirty years ago on June 4, 1989, more than one million Chinese citizens gathered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in protest of their country’s communist deadlock and to demand a more democratic society.
Hundreds to thousands were estimated to have been killed by China’s People’s Liberation Army after military tanks plowed down protesters and troops fired upon them during their peaceful protest, CNN reported. The Chinese government had imposed martial law and censored the entire event nationwide.
A total death count was never released by the Chinese government. But those who weren’t killed ended up in prison after an estimated 10,000 were arrested.
Today, China would prefer that the world forget about the humanitarian horror that happened in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago.
After the April 15, 1989 death of Hu Yaobang, a former Communist Party leader and the only hope the Chinese had for democratic reform, thousands of students protested in Tiananmen Square days later, calling for a more democratic government, according to CNN.
Now, many Chinese people fight to observe the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, even though communist China would rather erase the event entirely.
— CNN (@CNN) June 3, 2019
Fasting is the only way that this significant day can be remembered, since the Chinese government has tight control and censorship within the country, The Guardian reported.
They closely monitor citizens and the topic of Tiananmen Square is considered forbidden.
Chen Wei, a former student organizer, was one of the people who ended up in prison during that time, served 20 months for protesting. She has observed the anniversary of Tiananmen Square by fasting for 24 hours.
Wei is not alone in the fasting; countless others have followed her lead in fasting to honor the thousands who were killed.
Wei called it a sacred day. “They died to promote democracy in China, and it seems what we have done in the past 20 or 30 years is insignificant. We failed to let their souls rest in peace, we failed to redress their deaths,” she said.
A human rights group, China Change, is calling on a nationwide fast to mark the day. In a statement, the group said, “Holding vigil, wearing black in mourning, these acts can be suppressed and restricted. What cannot be restricted is fasting, which is possible even if you are deprived of your freedom. When 1.3 billion people come together to observe this moment, our nation will have gained new life.”
An organizer of the event added, “Before people fasted on their own. Now, we hope more people will join and turn this into a social movement and a tradition. Even though we are scattered… We are united and together.”
Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader in Beijing who lives in the U.S., said, “Fasting is a way to suffer. To reflect, so it’s appropriate for such an occasion.”
Wei said, “I feel guilty, but I also hope this will be resolved. I hope one day this day will be China’s Human Rights Day. Everyone feels sadness but also a sense of motivation and courage. This day is very special and sacred.”