Washington warns of danger from China in remembering the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown – Metro US

Washington warns of danger from China in remembering the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown

Tiananmen Anniversary
People gather at the base of the Victims of Communism Memorial during a candlelight vigil to mark the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square, Tuesday, June 3, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Didi Tang)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of the U.S. Congress on Tuesday said the ruling Chinese Communist Party that sent in tanks against peaceful student protesters 35 years ago in the heart of Beijing is as ruthless and suppressive today as it was in 1989, a stark warning as they commemorated the anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the ranking Democratic member of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, warned that Chinese leader Xi Jinping would resort to violence, as his predecessors did, to achieve his goals.

“We have to remember that when Chairman Xi Jinping says he will crack down hard on subversion and separatist activities … he’s telling the world that the (party) will send those tanks again against anyone that stands up for freedom,” the Illinois congressman said, with the iconic image of a lone man facing down a line of tanks nearby.

The Tuesday commemorations, which included former student leaders of the Tiananmen movement and younger activists from mainland China and Hong Kong, come as Washington has shifted its China policy from engagement to competition meant to curb China’s growing influences, which the U.S. sees as potentially upsetting the world order. The two countries also are clashing over Beijing’s militarization of the South China Sea and its increasing military threats against the self-governed island of Taiwan.

“This is now the source of legitimacy for the U.S. rivalry with China,” said Guo Baosheng, a political commentator, remembering the Tiananmen movement and victims of the military crackdown that killed hundreds — if not thousands — of people in 1989.

The commemorations in Washington, which also included a candlelight vigil at the foot of a replica of the Goddess of Democracy — a statue erected in Tiananmen Square during the 1989 movement — are part of the worldwide remembrance of the historic event. It is strictly a taboo in China, however, with no commemoration allowed there or in Hong Kong after Beijing imposed a national security law in 2020.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said in a statement that Beijing “has already drawn a clear conclusion on the political disturbance in the late 1980s.”

“The great achievements we made in the past 75 years since the establishment of the People’s Republic of China speak volumes about the right development path we have chosen with the endorsement by our people,” the embassy said.

“We have found a path toward better human rights that reflects the trend of the times and fits our national realities,” read the statement.

The embassy said China opposes the U.S. politicization of human rights issues, use of double standards and interference in China’s internal affairs in the name of human rights.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a former House speaker and a longtime supporter of China’s pro-democracy cause, said Tuesday that Beijing has failed to progress democratically.

“What has happened in China under the circumstances in the past 35 years has not been positive in terms of global democracy, in terms of human rights, in terms of promoting democratic freedoms,” Pelosi said.

She urged Americans to stand up against human rights abuses. If Americans don’t, “we lose all moral authority to speak out about human rights in any country in the world,” she said.

Zhou Fengsuo, a former student leader, said the Tiananmen crackdown is once again resonating today, for those who are seeing the danger of the Communist Party.

“Be it the Western society, the general public or China’s younger people, they have shown unprecedented interest,” Zhou said. “Especially after the pandemic, many people have realized all is nothing without freedom.”

Wang Dan, another former student leader, said the bloody Tiananmen crackdown should serve as a wake-up call for those who are still harboring any illusion about the Chinese communist party. “The world needs to be ready for this, that this regime habitually resorts to violence to solve problems,” Wang said.

The U.S. State Department said it remembered the victims of the Tiananmen crackdown and honored those whose voices are now silenced throughout China, including in Xinjiang, Tibet and Hong Kong.

“As Beijing attempts to suppress the memory of June 4, the United States stands in solidarity with those who continue the struggle for human rights and individual freedom,” the agency said in a statement. “The courage and sacrifice of the people who stood up in Tiananmen Square thirty-five years ago will not be forgotten.”