Fifteen years ago we awoke to news that the Chinese Government had violently ended the student protests at Tiananmen Square in Beijing. The students, who were protesting for more democracy and open government in China, were met with bullets and tanks. Some estimates were that two thousand or more people were killed in the crackdown.
The image most of us will remember is the lone student who kept stepping in
front of a tank which tried to steer around him. It takes nerve to step in
front of a tank, and it takes great sense of uncertainty for the tank to bow to one anonymous
It may be hard for us to remember those heady times. Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika had resulted in increased liberty in Eastern Europe, old Soviet-style, and Soviet-backed, dictatorships were teetering. Still, the Cold War wasn't over, the Berlin Wall was not demolished until November 9, 1989. A lot of uncertainty reigned. What the bullets symbolized was the commitment of the Chinese Communists not to democratize.
Even now, fifteen years later, we mourn their deaths. As a people, we were appalled at the violence and bloodshed.
Even now, it appears that
the Chinese government has learned nothing. Just this past week, Jiang Yanyong has disappeared. His wife, Hua Zhongwei, is also missing.
You may not recognize the name of Doctor Jiang. He's the doctor in China who revealed the Chinese government's
cover-up of the Sars virus. He's also been outspoken in his calls for the Communist Party to re-assess its verdict of 1989.
We might never have heard of this disappearance had Dr. Jiang's daughter, Jiang Rui, not lived in Salinas, California, where she works as a computer programmer. Here's more on the story of Doctor
Other activists, such as Liu Xiaobo, have been silenced as the fifteenth anniversary of Tiananmen approaches. Here's another link
and second one
China has changed enormously in fifteen years. There is much more economic freedom for a few, living in free trade zones. The Internet is
a fact of life.
Against this new wealth, though, there is poverty in the countryside, layoffs in Manchuria, and a greater division of wealth. Most important, there is still the repressive Communist dictatorship that tightly controls
things from personal expression to childbirth.
On the fifteenth anniversary of
Tiananmen Square, we should remember not just the symbolic hero who stepped in
front of that tank and made a government which has killled millions blink, but
all the brave people who put their lives on the line. Thousand died and
thousands were and still are persecuted, as this week's actions by the Chinese
We condemn these arrests, these efforts to silence those who
dissent. As the pictures flash across the screen over this weekend, please
remember those brave Chinese, like Jiang and Xiabo, who still put their lives on
the line for their human dignity and freedom. They deserve the support of
the American people and the American government, and we hope they get it.
What happened in Tiananmen Square should never be forgotten.