Thirty years ago last week, the tanks of the People’s “Liberation” Army (emphasis added, no irony whatsoever here) rolled into Tiananmen Square and cleared out thousands of pro-liberty protesters. Scores died and many more were injured in the quintessential brutal crackdown on human freedom of the late 20th century—it was a dark day, one of the darkest, for humankind.
The Tiananmen Square Massacre was the Chinese Communist Party’s grim sequel to the catastrophic Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward, which led to the deaths of millions. As Americans, we must never forget this event, and we should honor and remember the victims.
Protesters gathered on the square for weeks before the massacre, demanding democracy and individual freedom for the Chinese people. Some of the protesters even built a replica Statue of Liberty. On June 4, 1989, the regime lost patience with the demonstrations and cleared the square with indiscriminate, brutal force. The exact number of victims remains unknown, and the Chinese regime to this day obfuscates and lies about what happened.
Their lies and ongoing coverup require a U.S. response. The crackdown was a murderous massacre. Who could ever forget “tank man,” who bravely and defiantly stood all alone, gripping his bags as the soldiers of the PLA were forced to change direction repeatedly as he stepped into their path. This image is one of the most inspirational and enduring visions of freedom from the 20th century, capturing the spirit of freedom fighters the world over, who refuse to kneel in the face of oppression and terror.
After the dust settled, the communists declared martial law, arrested thousands, executed dozens, and ever since, have systematically attempted to erase Tiananmen Square from the history books—and from our memories.
We’ve seen a lot of change over the past 30 years, but the freedom-destroying, dishonest, and repressive Chinese Communist Party remains entrenched in power, every bit as hostile to freedom of thought, expression, and speech as in 1989. The Party continues to crack down on pro-democracy activists, or anyone who dissents against the Party line, especially evangelical Christians. Religious freedom, in particular, has been placed in a special corner of Chinese Communist hell by Chairman Xi—the intolerance, fear, and hatred of people of faith is unusually high in “modern”-day China.
Last week, no public events in China commemorated Tiananmen Square, foreclosing a chance for the families and friends of the dead to publicly grieve; the regime in the leadup to the anniversary carried out dozens of arrests, crushing any chance for activism or remembrance. Live-streaming sites were shut internally to quash dissenting views and free speech. The Party’s 30-year war on the truth continues unabated.
Americans should take a moment of silence to reflect on and/or pray for the victims of the massacre, and take another brief moment to light a candle of hope to honor their memory and to the promise of a democratic, free future for the Chinese people, some day.
Sure, we need a fair trade deal with China to continue economic stability and prosperity, for both of our countries; but what we need even more is a free and open China, with a democratically elected government that represents the Chinese people—not represses, imprisons, and murders the people.
The United States stands for free enterprise; but even more so, we stand for life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness. We shouldn’t lose sight of what truly defines us, and what, hopefully, will define the long-suffering Chinese people some day.