Tiananmen 30 years on: protesters' goals further than ever

Credit: Reuters Studio
Published on June 4, 2019 - Duration: 02:40s

Tiananmen 30 years on: protesters' goals further than ever

Three decades after China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing's Tiananmen Square, increased government suppression of rights activism has pushed the demonstrators' original goals further away than ever.

Eve Johnson reports.


Tiananmen 30 years on: protesters' goals further than ever

It's been 30 years since tanks rolled into Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

On June 4th, 1989 Chinese troops opened fire on tens of thousands of students who were calling for democratic freedoms and transparency.

Fast forward to today, and some of the protesters say China's no closer to embracing their goals.

In fact, they argue that the government's suppression of rights activism has pushed these goals further away than ever.

Wu'er Kaixi was one of the student leaders.

He now lives in exile in Taiwan.


And the western world, they adopted this China policy, they call it engagement, I just call it appeasement.

And then the western world in the last twenty, thirty years, nurtured China to become what it is today, a monstrous government that suppresses their own people." Rights campaigners say President Xi Jinping who came to power in 2012 - boosted efforts to crack down on human rights.

Under his leadership, activists have been jailed, detained or have simply disappeared.

China has also locked up a million or more minority Muslims in its Western Xinjiang region in so-called vocational training centers.

Wu'er says it's a one-sided bargain the Communist Party struck years ago on Tiananmen Square.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) TIANANMEN STUDENT LEADER, WU'ER KAIXI, SAYING: "From that day on they said, OK, we're going to give you economic freedom.

In exchange, you give us your submission." Today, a Tiananmen-style protest is almost unthinkable in China, thanks to sophisticated surveillance technology and censorship.

The anniversary remains a taboo.

In fact, many young Chinese know little about the crackdown.

In fact, the subject is so little discussed in public that China's Defence Minister made news when he defended the crackdown at a recent summit in Singapore.

(SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINA'S MINISTER OF DEFENCE, WEI FENGHE, SAYING: "It was political turmoil and the government needed to quell it.

The government acted decisively to stop the turbulence.

And this was the correct policy." China has never provided a death toll but rights groups and witnesses say that hundreds perhaps thousands of people were killed.

Reverend Chu Yiu-Ming is determined they will not be forgotten He helps organize an annual vigil in Hong Kong.

"It's our way of speaking out against authoritarianism.

When people see the light of our candles, they will be reminded that citizens were massacred." Chu is 75 years old, but he has no plans to stop holding the vigil until Beijing apologizes for the crackdown.

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