Thirty-two 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. Some estimates say as many as 10,000 were killed, according to a report by the Guardian.
A total death count was never released by the Chinese government. Those who weren’t killed ended up in prison after an estimated 10,000 were arrested. The Chinese government had imposed martial law and censored the entire event nationwide.
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.
Today, China would prefer that the world forgets about the humanitarian horror that happened in Tiananmen Square 31 years ago. Now, many Chinese people fight to observe the anniversary of Tiananmen Square, even though communist China would rather erase the event entirely.
Last year, Hong Kong police banned the traditional annual candlelight vigil, The Wall Street Journal reported. Anyone who defied the ban would be arrested. Despite the ban, thousands poured into Hong Kong’s Victoria Park and lit candles and chanted pro-democracy slogans as they have done each year for the past three decades, AFP reported. Some demonstrators were reportedly been arrested, however.
In China, fasting is considered the only way that this significant day can be remembered. The Chinese government has tight control and censorship within the country, and closely monitors citizens. The topic of Tiananmen Square is considered forbidden.
On Thursday, the U.S. State Department released a statement honoring the massacre.
Tomorrow marks the 32nd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Named after the nearby Gate of Heavenly Peace, the square is instead synonymous with the brutal actions by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1989 to silence tens of thousands of individuals advocating to have a say in their government and exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
These individuals had a noble and simple request: Recognize and respect our human rights, which are enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead of meeting this request with dignity and open debate, PRC authorities responded with violence. The courage of the brave individuals who stood shoulder-to-shoulder on June 4 reminds us that we must never stop seeking transparency on the events of that day, including a full accounting of all those killed, detained, or missing. The Tiananmen demonstrations are echoed in the struggle for democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, where a planned vigil to commemorate the massacre in Tiananmen Square was banned by local authorities.
The United States will continue to stand with the people of China as they demand that their government respect universal human rights. We honor the sacrifices of those killed 32 years ago, and the brave activists who carry on their efforts today in the face of ongoing government repression.
Editor’s Note: This story has been published previously on American Military News.