Eye­wit­nesses de­fied Bei­jing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

In May, vet­er­ans of the 1989 Tianan­men democ­racy move­ment spoke out about the 20th an­niver­sary of the tragic slaugh­ter of Tianan­men Square and U.S. pol­icy to­ward China.

Twenty years ago ear­lier, hun­dreds of thou­sands of demon­stra­tors gath­ered in Tianan­men Square and else­where in China to call for peace­ful demo­cratic re­forms. In the face of th­ese mas­sive demon­stra­tions, the Chi­nese Com­mu­nist Party hes­i­tated. Ap­par­ently some in the party’s lead­er­ship con­sid­ered the tragedy com­mu­nist rule had been for count­less mil­lions of lives de­stroyed by famines, cul­tural rev­o­lu­tions and to­tal­i­tar­ian con­trols un­der its regime.

But we know what hap­pened. On June 4, 1989, Jiang Zemin pushed the re­form­ers aside, cleared the square with tanks, and shot to death thou­sands of peace­ful demon­stra­tors.

In 1996, dur­ing a visit to the United States at the in­vi­ta­tion of Pres­i­dent Clin­ton, Gen. Chi Hao­tian, China’s de­fense min­is­ter and the gen­eral in com­mand at Tianan­men Square, boldly pro­claimed that “Not a sin­gle per­son lost his life in Tianan­men Square.” Ac­cord­ing to Gen. Chi, the Chi­nese army did noth­ing more vi­o­lent than “push­ing of peo­ple.”

Gen. Chi was hon­ored not only with a meet­ing with Mr. Clin­ton in the White House, but was ac­corded full mil­i­tary hon­ors, in­clud­ing a 19-gun salute and vis­its to mil­i­tary bases. Rather than get­ting the red car­pet, Gen. Chi should have been held to ac­count for his crimes against hu­man­ity.

To counter this af­front, I quickly put to­gether a hear­ing of eye­wit­nesses to the Tianan­men Square mas­sacre, in­clud­ing some jour­nal­ists. I also in­vited Gen. Chi or any­one from his gov­ern­ment to tes­tify be­fore our com­mit­tee. They were no-shows.

One wit­ness, Xue­can Wu, for­mer ed­i­tor of the Peo­ple’s Daily, was sin­gled out for pu­n­ish­ment and re­ceived four years in prison for try­ing to tell the truth to his read­ers. Mr. Wu called Gen. Chi’s claims “shame­less” and told my sub­com­mit­tee he per­son­ally saw “at least 30 carts car­ry­ing dead and wounded peo­ple.”

Eye­wit­ness Jian-Li Yang, vice pres­i­dent of the Al­liance for a Demo­cratic China, tes­ti­fied: “I saw trucks of sol­diers who got out and started fir­ing au­to­matic weapons at the peo­ple. Each time they fired the weapons, three or four peo­ple were hit, and each time the crowd went down to the ground. We were there for about an hour and a half. I saw 13 peo­ple killed.”

Time mag­a­zine’s David Aik­man, an­other eye­wit­ness, told Congress: “Chil­dren were killed hold­ing hands with their moth­ers. A 9-year-old boy was shot seven or eight times in the back, and his par­ents placed the corpse on a truck and drove through the streets of north­west Bei­jing on Sun­day morn­ing. ‘This is what the gov­ern­ment has done,’ the dis­traught mother kept telling crowds of passersby through a makeshift speaker sys­tem.”

Thou­sands died and about 7,000 were wounded.

In the 1990s, I vis­ited Bei­jing Prison No. 1, a bleak gu­lag where 40 Tianan­men Square pris­on­ers were be­ing un­justly de­tained. We saw first­hand the price paid by brave and tena­cious in­di­vid­u­als for peace­fully seek­ing free­dom. And it was not pretty. They looked like the walk­ing skele­tons of Auschwitz.

De­spite the hopes and ex­pec­ta­tions of some that ro­bust trade with China would usher in at least a mod­icum of re­spect for hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal lib­er­ties, China’s gov­ern­ment op­presses and tor­tures mil­lions of its own cit­i­zens. Its bru­tal one-child pol­icy makes broth­ers and sis­ters il­le­gal. Forced abor­tion, forced ster­il­iza­tion and ru­inous fines are rou­tine to en­sure com­pli­ance.

Those still in prison due to the Tianan­men crack­down in­clude five from Zhe­jiang Prov­ince: Wu Gaox­ing, pre­vi­ously an aca­demi­cian; Chen Longde, a fac­tory worker; Wang Dong­hai, a mar­ket man­ager; Mao Guo­liang, a teacher; and Ye Wenx­i­ang, a for­mer bank ac­coun­tant. China should release th­ese pris­on­ers at once.

The crim­i­nal slaugh­ter at Tianan­men has had ter­ri­ble and last­ing con­se­quences for the Chi­nese peo­ple and for the world. China had reached a turn­ing point and failed to turn. Twenty years later, it still has not turned.

The Chi­nese peo­ple still live un­der a one-party gov­ern­ment that re­presses dis­senters, con­trols all news me­dia and blocks and cen­sors the In­ter­net. The Com­mu­nist Party per­se­cutes re­li­gious be­liev­ers and has stepped up its cam­paign of cul­tural geno­cide in Xin­jiang and Ti­bet.

Last sum­mer, I walked across Tianan­men Square. Of­fi­cials searched me and squads of po­lice sur­rounded my group, ter­ri­fied we might hold up a sign or ban­ner.

To­day, an un­told num­ber of hu­man rights ac­tivists re­main in­car­cer­ated. The brave and noble hu­man rights at­tor­ney Gao Zhisheng has been sub­jected to ex­cru­ci­at­ing tor­ture that con­tin­ues to­day. We must raise our voices on his be­half — and for oth­ers like him.

Ear­lier this year, Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton said China’s hu­man rights record would not “in­ter­fere” with other is­sues, es­pe­cially China’s pur­chase of U.S. Trea­sury se­cu­ri­ties to fi­nance Amer­ica’s debt. Wit­tingly or not, that kind of at­ti­tude en­ables abuse and tor­ture.

The U.S. gov­ern­ment has not done enough to sup­port the Chi­nese peo­ple. And our fail­ure has been defin­ing for our own for­eign pol­icy. Pres­i­dent Obama has not shown much in­ter­est in hu­man rights. In our pol­icy to­ward Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and Rus­sia, to name a few coun­tries, hu­man rights has been dra­mat­i­cally down­graded.

Every­one in the hu­man rights com­mu­nity needs to speak loud and clear on the need for the U.S. ad­min­is­tra­tion to find its voice on hu­man rights. If we don’t per­suade it to change its ap­proach soon, this ad­min­is­tra­tion could be­come a dis­as­ter for hu­man rights around the globe.

There is no bet­ter is­sue on which to find our voice than the is­sue on which we lost it — the Tianan­men mas­sacre. Twenty years is a somber mile­stone, but also an op­por­tu­nity. Let’s make our voices heard, so that those brave souls who died, or were wounded or im­pris­oned, did not speak out for free­dom in vain.

Rep. Christo­pher H. Smith, New Jer­sey Repub­li­can, is a se­nior mem­ber of the House For­eign Af­fairs Com­mit­tee and the rank­ing Repub­li­can mem­ber of the Con­gres­sional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion on China.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.