With human rights organizations commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre, one would think that the United Nations would make a strong statement regarding the incident. But to the contrary, the UN has chosen to remain silent, refusing to condemn the Chinese communist government on the brutal crackdown.
Silence on Tiananmen
António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, and Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, have avoided mentioning the Tiananmen incident. Curious as to why leaders of the UN were silent on the topic, a reporter asked spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric if Guterres had a comment on Tiananmen’s 30th anniversary.
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Dujarric shut down the line of questioning by answering that he had “no particular comment on that.” Interestingly, Bachelet had condemned the recent massacre of 30 Sudanese civilians. This gave rise to speculation that Bachelet was only condemning the Sudanese massacre because the Sudanese government was weak and that she was maintaining silence on Tiananmen since China was strong and a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
Asked about whether or not the UN was practicing double standards by condemning some violent acts while remaining silent on others, Dujarric tried to evade the question by saying that the UN was simply focusing on contemporary issues. “I think the secretary [was] commenting on things that were happening today, right now, under his watch. And again on the broader issue on human rights in China, I would refer you to things I’ve said previously,” the spokesperson said in a statement (Hong Kong Free Press).
Meanwhile, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has asked the U.S. government to make human rights a part of trade talks with China. She was speaking at a congressional hearing on June 4 to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen massacre incident. Pelosi had opposed the 2000 bill that normalized the trade relationship between the two nations. She also called America’s decision to back China’s rise in the WTO a mistake. Pelosi reminded that sacrificing human rights for economic benefit goes against American values.
“If we don’t speak about human rights in China because of economic concerns, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in any other place in the world… That’s why in 1993, we worked on the U.S.-China Act to tie any extension to China’s trade status to improvement of human rights by the Chinese government. In 1994, we urged Congress to limit the Most Favorable Nation status on products made by the People’s Liberation Army, the perpetrator of the massacre on Tiananmen Square,” Pelosi said in a statement (The Epoch Times).
In China, the state has been heavily censoring the Internet, deleting all mentions of the Tiananmen incident. VPN networks have been rendered useless. June 4 is often called the “Internet maintenance day” because of the numerous websites that go offline during this time. Media companies like The New York Times, BBC, and CNN are blocked in China. Social media posts that mention Tiananmen are immediately taken down by the censors.
Refinitiv, a company that publishes news from Reuters in China, has removed all articles related to the June 4 massacre. However, Reuters themselves are not believed to have self-censored the content. Instead, the Chinese government put pressure on Refinitiv to delete Reuters’ articles. Journalists who have published articles criticizing Chinese leaders have been denied visas.