“For the values of democracy and equality, many great men and women gave up their lives. On this earth beneath the vast sky, although freedom and democracy belong to the entire humanity, they will never belong to those who oppress by practicing dictatorship.”
~ Tashi Rabten aka Theurang
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the 4 June 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy protest in Beijing, which saw the participation of over a million Chinese students, workers and professionals. Deng Xiaoping, then the leader of the Chinese Communist Party, ordered 200,000 People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers in armored tanks to suppress the non-violent protest. In the wake of the bloody crackdown, hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens died, and thousands of them injured brutally. Many also disappeared. The Tiananmen massacre revealed the true nature of the CCP and the PLA to the world: that they do not protect or work for the liberation of the Chinese people – that authoritarian regime survival is more important than human lives.
The greatness of the Tiananmen protest lies in its noble aspiration and peaceful demand for basic human liberties – freedom of speech, press, assembly and elect leaders of one’s own choice – liberties that are often taken for granted in free and open societies. The protestors, by putting their precious lives at risk, exposed the vicious lies and contempt of the Chinese Communist Party and their apologists who declare in the name of ‘socialism with Chinese characteristics’ that Chinese people do not need freedom and democracy and are satisfied with political authoritarianism backed by unsustainable, exploitative economic development.
Although the protests were suppressed brutally, and justice has not been delivered to the victims and their families, the non-violent struggle of the Chinese people for freedom, democracy and human rights continue. Notable among the many examples of Chinese citizens standing up for these ideals today are: Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, who is serving an 11-year sentence in prison; his wife, Liu Xia, who is being kept under house arrest; 70-year-old journalist, Gao Yu, who was arrested with her son for defying the order not to discuss seven “unmentionable topics”, among which includes history of the Tiananmen square democracy movement; rights lawyer, Pu Zhiqiang and the scholar Xu Youyu, who were criminally detained on 5 May 2014 for commemorating privately the 25th anniversary of the massacre in their homes along with 13 other intellectuals. Not to mention the daily struggles of ordinary Chinese peasants in the countryside, and workers in the cities, for their rights to live with freedom and dignity.
“The growing number of Chinese activists, scholars, journalists and artists, who continue to risk their lives for constitutional democracy and human rights represents the hope and aspirations of many including Tibetans for a more humane and democratic China,” said Tsering Tsomo, executive director of Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). “The one-party regime may continue to hold onto power today in China, ruling the country by sheer force and falsehood, claiming that without its leadership China will be plunged into chaos and anarchy. The truth of the matter is the killings at the Tiananmen will continue to question and taint the legitimacy of the current and past leaderships of the PRC.”
TCHRD believes that in the end, the ideals that were espoused by the Chinese protestors on 4 June 1989 will outlast and triumph the tyranny they suffered, and dreams of the survivors of the massacre to see the “mausoleum and portrait of the mass murderer Mao Zedong replaced by a monument to the heroes of 1989” will be materialized one day.