On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government engaged in a violent crackdown on protestors demanding democracy in the country. Thousands of people died as a result and the incident became known as the Tiananmen Massacre. Being the 30th anniversary of the infamous incident, the Chinese commemorated it as a symbol of resistance against authoritarianism.
A bloody incident
Many Chinese fasted on June 4, mostly consuming just water for the entire day. Most who fasted were former protestors who saw friends perish in the violence. “It’s really a sacred day… They died to promote democracy in China and it seems what we have done in the past 20 or 30 years is insignificant. We failed to let their souls rest in peace; we failed to redress their deaths,” one of the student leaders of the 1989 protests said to The Guardian.
Fasting is held only as a private thing, since public commemorations of the massacre are forbidden by the government. The state also keeps many of the former protestors under house arrest or tight surveillance to ensure that they don’t rake up the issue on the anniversary. Some online groups had called for nationwide fasting on the day. However, Chinese censors quickly blocked such posts.
Several former military personnel who were part of the crackdown have expressed remorse in recent times. “The pain has eaten at me for 30 years… Everyone who took part must speak up about what they know happened. That’s our duty to the dead, the survivors, and the children of the future,” Jiang Lin, a former People’s Liberation Army lieutenant at the time of the massacre, said to The New York Times.
At the Capitol Hill, Wu’er Kaixi, a student leader of the 1989 protests, testified in front of the Congress. He accused world leaders of betraying the Chinese people as many chose to remain silent following the massacre since they wanted to maintain business relationships with China. Being a Uyghur, he also asked U.S. lawmakers to implement the Magnitsky sanctions to punish Chinese officials involved in the persecution of his community.
“The support we had didn’t last and we the Chinese democracy activists were abandoned to our fate. Mentioning Tiananmen became an inconvenience for the leaders of world democracies. We were betrayed… We really should know what the Chinese regime is: It’s a group of bandits who stole the position of ruling one of the largest countries and took advantage of that position to loot the country,” he said in a statement (Newsweek).
Hong Kong vigil
In Hong Kong, thousands of people held a huge public vigil at Victoria Park. Almost 180,000 are estimated to have attended the event. Most people were dressed in black and some were seen crying. Protest songs were played and people chanted against the brutality of the Chinese regime. Many were also concerned that Beijing’s increasing influence in Hong Kong might one day lead to their own Tiananmen Massacre. “The memory of June 4 scares me… Being here reminds me that the Chinese government is so inhumane and, recently, they are tightening the rule of law in Hong Kong,” a university student said to Asia Times.
The Chinese government has promised that the “One Country, Two Systems” agreement will remain in force until 2047. However, several pro-democracy activists are worried that Beijing does not intend to honor its part of the deal. Recently, the Chinese regime pressured the Hong Kong government to propose a law that would make it possible for the region’s “criminals” to be transferred to the mainland when requested by Beijing. Given that China basically labels anyone who raises a voice against the Communist government a criminal, human rights and democracy activists in Hong Kong could be at serious risk if the law were to be passed by the local administration.