Thirty years ago today, the tanks were lining up to take out the Statue of Liberty. They moved in the night of June 3 and into the 4th, crushing not just the replica that art students had built, but thousands of protesters demanding freedom for China.
This was Tiananmen Square, and also demonstrations across the People’s Republic — all smashed by the state and its ill-named People’s Liberation Army.
The protests broke out in April 1989, as students marched into Tiananmen Square to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, a party chief deposed for turning democracy reformist.
They were demanding free speech and an open, free society. And they paid the price.
The pictures tell the tale: The tanks lining the streets, readying to roll in, soldiers marching in with rifles at the ready — then bodies strewn about, tens of thousands of people running for their lives, cars burned in the middle of the road.
The regime calls it the June Fourth Incident, to the extent the Chinese Communist Party mentions it at all. It would rather erase the day, and the movement, from history altogether.
Each year as the anniversary nears, Beijing locks up whatever former protest leaders, and families of those killed, it thinks might speak out. Suppression of the truth is the first priority. With the 30th anniversary approaching, the regime detained dozens of dissidents and activists.
“Thirty years on from the Tiananmen bloodshed, the very least the victims and their families deserve is justice,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia research director of Amnesty International. “However, President Xi [Jinping] continues to read from the same tired political playbook, cruelly persecuting those seeking the truth about the tragedy in a concerted effort to wipe the June 4 crackdown from memory.”
In April, activist Chen Bing was sentenced to 3 ½ years in jail after he and three others were found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for plans to commemorate the Tiananmen anniversary on the bottles of Chinese liquor, Amnesty International reported. Deng Chuanbin was placed under criminal detention on the same charge — for a tweet.
This is supposedly modern China, aiming to be the world’s most advanced economy even as it crushes churches, harvests organs from dissenters, “re-educates” Uighers by the millions and perverts the Internet to make Big Brother a reality.
China’s Communist Party now stands for nothing but repression, and the people — for all the regime’s efforts to erase history — know it.
In countless hearts, Lady Liberty’s torch still burns. The final reckoning will come.
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