It has been 30 years ago since thousands of protesters embarked on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989 to rally for democracy only to meet the Chinese government’s response of martial law and slaughter.
Approximately 180,000 were estimated to be in attendance in Hong Kong for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the hundreds to thousands estimated to have been killed by the Chinese military 30 years ago, Hong Kong Free Press reported.
While Hong Kong is under Beijing control, they are able to enjoy more freedom as a legacy of British rule that ended in 1997, The Associated Press reported. Because of that freedom, they are the only area that pays tribute to the 1989 massacre.
The government has silenced citizens for three decades now, not allowing them to speak of the incident or the loved ones they lost. Except in Hong Kong, there can be no memorials, commemorations, or vigils held in China for those lost that day.
Scenes from tonight’s candlelight vigil at Hong Kong’s Victoria Park commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square Protests pic.twitter.com/OI0bJARkcx
— Aria Hangyu Chen 陳航宇 (@ariahychen) June 4, 2019
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has encouraged the vigils to “highlight the contrast between her democratically elected government and China’s authoritarian communist system,” AP reported.
Tsai posted Tuesday on Facebook, “China has shown that it not only had no intention of reflecting on “that year’s mistake” but also planned to continue covering up the truth about the incident. Please rest easy, Taiwan will absolutely adhere to democracy, adhere to freedom, regardless of threats or infiltration.”
The Hong Kong time vigil included a number of students placing bouquets at the “Pillar of Shame,” a sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot commemorating the massacre’s victims.
One 18-year-old student, Donald Chung told the AP, “Just because I wasn’t born then and never experienced the event, there’s no stopping me from reminding others like me of this and carrying on the collective memory.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said, “Acknowledgement of these events, and of those killed, detained or missing in connection with the Tiananmen Square protests, is important for future generations and for the collective memory. We expect the legal safeguards and due process rights of those detained in connection with the 1989 events, or with current activities to commemorate it, to be respected.”
A small vigil was also held at Washington, D.C.’s Victims of Communism Memorial Park, including speakers who were witnesses to the massacre.
“Tonight, we gather once again to remember our fallen brothers and sisters in Tiananmen Square and celebrate their courage that showed the world that the Chinese people desire freedom and justice above all earthly goods. We are here to reaffirm that, no matter how many days or decades have gone by, there will never come a time when we forget their sacrifices,” an unidentified speaker said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement to commemorate the victims, saying, “We salute the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago in Tiananmen Square to demand their rights. Their exemplary courage has served as an inspiration to future generations calling for freedom and democracy around the world, beginning with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of communism in Eastern Europe in the months that followed.”
We honor the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up 30 years ago in #Tiananmen Square to demand their rights. Those events still stir our conscience, and the conscience of freedom-loving people around the world. https://t.co/Rn4FMmFxPL #Tiananmen30
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) June 3, 2019
China responded on Tuesday with a statement on the Chinese embassy in Washington, D.C. website, saying Pompeo’s statement “grossly intervenes” in China’s internal affairs and is “an affront to the Chinese people and a serious violation of international law.”
Further, they stated, “The Chinese government and people reached the verdict on the political incident of the late 1980s long ago,” and went on to praise its culture and political systems.
The statement, lacking apology or remorse for the government’s role in the massacre or its efforts in burying it, suggests the government’s ideology hasn’t changed in the 30 years since.