In 1989, the Chinese communist regime carried out the Tiananmen massacre attack against pro-democracy protestors that has now become a symbol of authoritarian suppression. Thousands of innocents died in the crackdown. Even more were arrested and tortured, forced to give up their ideals, and live quiet lives in compliance with state rules. Many Chinese have emigrated from their homeland since then. And during the 30th anniversary of the event, they still hold hope that the people of their country will one day enjoy the freedoms of a democratic society.
Remembering the 1989 Tiananmen massacre
Zhou Fengsuo was a university student at the time of the protests. In fact, he was one of the student leaders actively encouraging his friends to raise their voices against the authoritarian Chinese regime. He was mostly tasked with providing medical assistance to the protestors. Once the police started attacking them, he witnessed firsthand how brutal the state can be.
After the crackdown, he was listed No. 5 on the government list of most-wanted men. Zhou was eventually arrested and sent to jail for a year. In 1990, Zhou was released due to international pressure. Five years later in 1995, he emigrated to the U.S. Zhou currently lives in California and is the president of the China Human Rights Accountability Center.
“So many people died for such a great hope, for a better China. I have to carry on. It’s mostly lonely work. Most of the people [like me] are living in isolation. But on the other hand, over these years, I was able to know of so many amazing stories of these people. It’s like you’re walking through the dark. You don’t know where the light is. But all of a sudden you see someone else who was struggling and was carrying on the same ideals as you,” he said to NPR.
Peter Ngan is a 28-year-old government staffer in Wellington, New Zealand. He feels that there will be more protests against the Chinese government in the future, which could lead to further conflicts. But what Ngan is concerned about is the unwillingness of the Chinese community to talk about the massacre. Many are afraid to acknowledge it, while some are plain clueless that such a brutal event happened in their country.
“Being able to speak freely about the government is highly sensitive in China and doing a lot of the normal things that you take for granted in New Zealand, [like] using social media and not having the government watch you. My friends in China probably don’t know much about [Tiananmen]. I think there should be more education in China about actually what happened. A lot of people born in China, they still don’t acknowledge it, even if I give them the hard facts,” he said to The Guardian.
Commemoration in Taiwan
In Taiwan, people held a vigil at the Taipei Liberty Square commemorating the massacre. Almost 20,000 Taiwanese participated in the event. The event holds even more significance for the Taiwanese considering that similar protests took place in the region. In 1990, Taiwan saw the Wild Lily student movement, which asked for presidential elections in the country and more personal freedoms. But unlike China, which brutalized protestors to maintain communist totalitarianism, Taiwan went on to become a democracy.
“The arrogant demeanor showcased by Chinese Communist Party’s lack of introspection and reflection towards the Tiananmen Square incident reveals the huge difference between totalitarian China and democratic Taiwan… As [China’s] crackdown continues against Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet, we must alert people to heed on the ongoing brutal suppression in remembrance of June 4,” Miao Po-Ya, Taipei City Councilor, said in a statement (The Diplomat).
Chinese officials, including President Xi Jinping, have warned in recent times that they will use military force if required to annex Taiwan. The Tiananmen massacre incident is a reminder to the Taiwanese that the communist government can never be trusted and that they must always be prepared to fight for their rights.