U.S. lashes Bei­jing on Tianan­men an­niver­sary

The Washington Times Weekly - - International Perspective - BY NI­CHOLAS KRALEV AND WILLIS WIT­TER

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion on June 3 is­sued its harsh­est crit­i­cism of China’s hu­man rights record since tak­ing of­fice, ac­cus­ing Bei­jing of try­ing to “hide” the Tianan­men Square mas­sacre on its 20th an­niver­sary and de­mand­ing a “pub­lic ac­count­ing” of those killed and miss­ing in the crack­down.

Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton, whom ac­tivists ac­cused of down­play­ing hu­man rights dur­ing her visit to Bei­jing in Fe­bru­ary, called for the release of all of those still im­pris­oned for par­tic­i­pat­ing in the protests and for “di­a­logue” be­tween the gov­ern­ment and rel­a­tives of the vic­tims.

“A China that has made enor­mous progress eco­nom­i­cally, and that is emerg­ing to take its right­ful place in global lead­er­ship, should ex­am­ine openly the darker events of its past and pro­vide a pub­lic ac­count­ing of those killed, de­tained or miss­ing, both to learn and to heal,” Mrs. Clin­ton said in a state­ment.

In pub­lic re­marks, how­ever, she and other top ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials had lit­tle to say. Pres­i­dent Obama was in the Mid­dle East, and Mrs. Clin­ton, just back from a Latin Amer­i­can sum­mit, was fly­ing to join the pres­i­dent in Cairo.

The Chi­nese Em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton had no im­me­di­ate re­ac­tion to Mrs. Clin­ton’s re­marks.

Vis­i­tors were al­lowed into Tianan­men on the morn­ing of June 4 amid a heavy po­lice pres­ence. It was a con­trast to the 10th an­niver­sary of the crack­down, when the square was com­pletely closed.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of pro­test­ers took to the streets of Bei­jing and other Chi­nese cities in the late spring of 1989 af­ter the death of re­formist leader Hu Yaobang. The demon­stra­tions grew into the largest and loud­est call for democ­racy in China since the found­ing of the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment in 1949.

Chi­nese troops moved on demon­stra­tors on the night of June 3, turn­ing what wit­nesses de­scribed as a cel­e­bra­tory, al­most car­ni­val-style oc­ca­sion into a night of hor­ror.

As peo­ple in the square be­gan drop­ping one by one, Chi­nese troops pur­sued flee­ing demon­stra­tors down side streets, killing hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands. An iconic im­age of the time showed a young man try­ing to block a tank from ad­vanc­ing.

China says 241 peo­ple died and that it re­sponded to re­store or­der to the cap­i­tal’s cen­tral square af­ter weeks of chaotic protests. Chi­nese of­fi­cials note the enor­mous strides the coun­try has made in terms of eco­nomic progress and say that Chi­nese are far freer in terms of their in­di­vid­ual lives than at any other time in 60 years.

How­ever, the gov­ern­ment still rou­tinely ar­rests po­lit­i­cal dis­si­dents and took no chances about protests on this year’s an­niver­sary. Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties blan­keted the streets sur­round­ing Tianan­men with po­lice vans, banned for­eign re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers, blocked Twit­ter and other In­ter­net ser­vices and sent po­lice and para­mil­i­tary forces into the square.

“They are try­ing ev­ery­thing they can do to block in­for­ma­tion, to cen­sor, to look for any po­ten­tial threat,” said Wang Dan, a top stu­dent leader of the protests who spent seven years in jail.

But Mr. Wang said the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment even­tu­ally will have to face the past.

“Tech­ni­cally, I don’t think they can achieve their goal com­pletely. For ex­am­ple, even my­self can have my per­sonal blog in­side China for al­most half a year and the gov­ern­ment never knew that. The gov­ern­ment just re­cently shut me down, but I can use an­other fake name to open a new one,” Mr. Wang said at a sem­i­nar this week spon­sored by the Her­itage Foun­da­tion.

“We can have this con­tin­ual fight; we can just keep fight­ing for­ever,” he said.

Fang Zheng, a 22-year-old ath­lete at­tend­ing the Bei­jing Col­lege of Sports in 1989, lost both legs, which were crushed by a tank on the morn­ing of June 4.

“The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment al­ways tries to cover up,” Mr. Fang told a rally Sun­day in Hing Hay Park in Seat­tle, ac­cord­ing to the Seat­tle Times. “We want to tell you the truth. Please don’t for­get the truth.”

Mr. Fang, who was on Capi­tol Hill on Wed­nes­day, told the Tom Lan­tos Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion that Tianan­men sur­vivors have been mis­treated in the past 20 years while the dead have been for­got­ten.

“I want to em­pha­size that many of you have seen the im­age of that tank man who was in front of that Chi­nese mil­i­tary tank, but not all of the peo­ple know that there are so many who just sim­ply crushed and lost their lives,” Mr. Fang said, de­scrib­ing a scene about a half-mile from the square.

State Depart­ment of­fi­cials said Mrs. Clin­ton’s state­ment was the strong­est an­niver­sary con­dem­na­tion of Tianan­men in the past 19 years.

“This an­niver­sary pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity for Chi­nese au­thor­i­ties to release from prison all those still serv­ing sen­tences in con­nec­tion with the events sur­round­ing June 4, 1989,” Mrs. Clin­ton said. “We urge China to cease the ha­rass­ment of par­tic­i­pants in the demon­stra­tions and be­gin di­a­logue with the fam­ily mem­bers of vic­tims, in­clud­ing the Tianan­men moth­ers.

“We should re­mem­ber the tragic loss of hun­dreds of in­no­cent lives and re­flect upon the mean­ing of the events that pre­ceded that day.”

“We would pre­fer to see a China that’s pre­pared to learn from his­tory, rather than try­ing to hide it,” State Depart­ment spokesman P.J. Crow­ley added. “It’s re­mark­able with some of the cov­er­age that we’ve seen this week — how some el­e­ments of their pop­u­la­tion are roughly un­fa­mil­iar with what hap­pened 20 years ago. This is in­con­sis­tent with the ac­tions of a great power.”

Mr. Crow­ley said the ad­min­is­tra­tion will not “take a cook­iecut­ter ap­proach to hu­man rights” but will bring up the sub­ject “as ap­pro­pri­ate with ev­ery coun­try with which we have those is­sues.”

Some China an­a­lysts praised Mrs. Clin­ton’s state­ment and said Bei­jing’s ac­tions in the past sev­eral days show that, what­ever eco­nomic and other free­doms the Chi­nese peo­ple may have, when it comes to po­lit­i­cal ex­pres­sion, the gov­ern­ment re­mains re­pres­sive.

“Chi­nese so­ci­ety is much freer to­day by any ac­count­ing,” said Charles Free­man, chair­man in Chi­nese stud­ies at the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies. “That said, when the gov­ern­ment sees po­lit­i­cal chal­lenges, rather than pre­serve an en­vi­ron­ment in which those chal­lenges can flour­ish, it tries to squash them. That’s not a sign of a par­tic­u­larly con­fi­dent gov­ern­ment.”

Other an­a­lysts were crit­i­cal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, cit- ing re­cent vis­its to China by top of­fi­cials.

Mrs. Clin­ton raised many eye­brows dur­ing her trip to Bei­jing in Fe­bru­ary, when she said that, while hu­man rights are im­por­tant, they should not be al­lowed to “in­ter­fere” with other is­sues on which the U.S. and China work to­gether, such as cli­mate change and the global re­ces­sion.

In Bei­jing last week, Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy F. Gei­th­ner did not raise the sub­ject of hu­man rights, at least pub­licly.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in Bei­jing last month, also re­fused to dis­cuss hu­man rights in pub­lic. It was a re­ver­sal from the Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat’s high­pro­file stance on the is­sue dur­ing her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer.

Richard C. Ka­gan, a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at Ham­line Uni­ver­sity in St. Paul, Minn., who has lived in China and Tai­wan and writ­ten ex­ten­sively on hu­man rights, said there is hypocrisy in the U.S. ap­proach.

“We talk about the strug­gle for free­dom and democ­racy but don’t say any­thing about China,” Mr. Ka­gan said. “Iron­i­cally, we won the Cold War without fir­ing a shot. Now, China has won a sec­ond cold war, also without fir­ing a shot. The Chi­nese sys­tem is not threat­ened by any­body.”

Mr. Ka­gan said he dis­agrees with those who ar­gue that lim­it­ing U.S. crit­i­cism to pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with the Chi­nese can be more ef­fec­tive than pub­lic crit­i­cism.


Stu­dents from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong hold a can­dle­light vigil June 3 in ob­ser vance of the 20th an­niver­sar y of Bei­jing’s bloody crack­down on Tianan­men Square pro­test­ers.


A lone Chi­nese pro­tester blocks a line of tanks near Tianan­men Square on June 5, 1989, in what be­came an iconic im­age of the pro-democ­racy demon­stra­tors.

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