HomeNewsBeijing ‘never paid a price at home or abroad’ for Tiananmen Massacre

Beijing ‘never paid a price at home or abroad’ for Tiananmen Massacre

A FAILURE by the international community to hold China’s communist rulers fully accountable for the Tiananmen Massacre of 1989 has only emboldened the regime’s ongoing human rights abuses, says a leading rights group.

Chinese military massacred an untold number of peaceful pro-democracy demonstrators around June 4, 1989, said Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The regime has never accepted responsibility for the massacre or held any officials legally accountable for the killings, HRW said in a statement. It has been unwilling to investigate the events or release data on those who were killed, injured, forcibly disappeared, or imprisoned.

“China’s government never paid a price at home or abroad for the Tiananmen Massacre, encouraging its arbitrary detention of millions, repression of civil society, and weakening of international human rights law and institutions,” said Yaqiu Wang, HRW’s China researcher. “Governments need to take stronger measures to pressure Beijing to acknowledge past wrongdoing and cease ongoing abuses.”

HRW said that the authorities should cease all harassment of families of victims and activists for commemorating the occasion and censorship of discussions of the crackdown.

As in previous years, in the weeks before the anniversary, authorities have been on high alert across China to preempt commemorations of the massacre. Authorities have put under house arrest or restricted the movement and communication of members of Tiananmen Mothers, a group of relatives of Tiananmen Massacre victims, including Zhang Xianling, 82, and Ding Zilin, 83, whose sons were killed in the crackdown.

“Despite extraordinary persecution, human rights activists across China continue to follow the spirit of 1989 and push for democracy and freedom in the country,” Wang said. “Governments around the world need to support them, learn from them, and stand up to the Chinese government’s abuses.”

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HRW said that the Chinese regime continues to ignore international and domestic calls for justice for the Tiananmen Massacre, and sanctions that the U.S. government imposed in response to the massacre have over the years been weakened or evaded. The lack of a broad and meaningful international response to the massacre and ensuing crackdown helps explain Beijing’s increasingly brazen abuses, including the continuing mass detention of an estimated one million Turkic Muslims, the weeks-long cover up of the COVID-19 outbreak, and, most recently, the direct imposition of national security legislation on Hong Kong contrary to the Basic Law. Instead of acknowledging and addressing its abysmal human rights record, Beijing has tried to present itself as a leader at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

For the first time in 30 years there will be no vigil for the massacre in either Hong Kong or Macau. Both former colonies banned the vigil, citing COVID-19 related concerns. The event in Hong Kong is usually attended by tens of thousands of people. The two cities have been promised autonomy but in recent years, respect for the basic rights and freedoms of their populations has significantly declined, HRW said.

The Tiananmen Massacre was precipitated by the peaceful gatherings of students, workers, and others in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and other Chinese cities in April 1989, calling for freedom of expression, accountability, and an end to corruption. The government responded to the intensifying protests in late May 1989 by declaring martial law.

On June 3 and 4, the military opened fire and killed untold numbers of peaceful protesters and bystanders. In Beijing, some citizens attacked army convoys and burned vehicles in response to the military’s violence. Following the killings, the government implemented a national crackdown and arrested thousands for “counter-revolution” and other criminal charges, including disrupting social order and arson.

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