Thirty-three 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.
In 2020, Hong Kong police banned the traditional annual candlelight vigil, The Wall Street Journal reported. Anyone who defies the ban will be arrested. Despite the ban, thousands have poured into Hong Kong’s Victoria Park to light candles and chant pro-democracy slogans as they have done each year for the past three decades, though some demonstrators are still 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 Friday, the U.S. State Department released a statement honoring the massacre.
Tomorrow, we commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, where tens of thousands of pro-democracy protestors peacefully joined together to call for democracy, accountability, freedom, and rule of law. The 50-day protest ended abruptly on June 4, 1989, with a brutal assault by the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) military. Countless were imprisoned and the number of deaths is still unknown today.
The efforts of these brave individuals will not be forgotten. Each year, we honor and remember those who stood up for human rights and fundamental freedoms. While many are no longer able to speak up themselves, we and many around the world continue to stand up on their behalf and support their peaceful efforts to promote democracy and the rights of individuals.
Today, the struggle for democracy and freedom continues to echo in Hong Kong, where the annual vigil to commemorate the massacre in Tiananmen Square was banned by the PRC and Hong Kong authorities in an attempt to suppress the memories of that day. We will continue to speak out and promote accountability for PRC atrocities and human rights abuses, including those in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet. To the people of China and to those who continue to stand against injustice and seek freedom, we will not forget June 4.