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China in war of words with US over 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre

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By PTI Updated: Jun 04, 2019 10:02 pm
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Thousands of people attend a candlelight vigil for victims of the Chinese government’s brutal military crackdown three decades ago on protesters in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square at Victoria Park in Hong Kong Tuesday, June 4, 2019. Hong Kong is the only region under Beijing’s jurisdiction that holds significant public commemorations of the 1989 crackdown and memorials for its victims. Hong Kong has a degree of freedom not seen on the mainland as a legacy of British rule that ended in 1997. AP/PTI

Beijing/Washington, June 4 (PTI): China and the US on Tuesday exchanged barbs over the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised Beijing’s human rights record and asked it to publicly reveal how many pro-democracy protesters died in the brutal military crackdown.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s furious response came after Pompeo’s call for public accountability of the massacre by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) 30 years ago in Beijing’s iconic Tiananmen Square.

Hundreds of pro-democracy protesters are believed to have been killed on June 4, 1989 in and around the Tiananmen Square as the PLA launched a brutal crackdown on those demonstrating against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

The Chinese government has never said how many people died at Tiananmen Square, although estimates range from the hundreds to thousands.

Noting that the event 30 years ago still stirs the conscience of freedom-loving people around the world, Pompeo said that over the decades that followed, the US hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society.

He called on China to release all those held for seeking to exercise these rights and freedom, halt the use of arbitrary detention, and reverse counterproductive policies that conflate terrorism with religious and political expression.

“We urge the Chinese government to make a full public accounting of those killed or missing to give comfort to the many victims of this dark chapter of history. Such a step would begin to demonstrate the Communist Party’s willingness to respect human rights and fundamental freedom,” Pompeo said in a statement on the occasion of 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

“China’s own Constitution stipulates that all power belongs to the people. History has shown that nations are stronger when governments are responsive to their citizens, respect the rule of law, and uphold human rights and fundamental freedom,” he said.

Noting that the event 30 years ago still stirs the conscience of freedom-loving people around the world, Pompeo said that over the decades that followed, the US hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society.

“Those hopes have been dashed. China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests,” he alleged.

“On June 4, we honour the heroic protest movement of the Chinese people that ended on June 4, 1989, when the Chinese Communist Party leadership sent tanks into Tiananmen Square to violently repress peaceful demonstrations calling for democracy, human rights, and an end to rampant corruption.

“The hundreds of thousands of protesters who gathered in Beijing and in other cities around China suffered grievously in pursuit of a better future for their country,” he said.

The number of the dead is still unknown, Pompeo said.

Reacting sharply to Pompeo’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said China firmly rejects the allegations and has lodged a firm representation with the US.

“Some in the US are so used to lecturing others on the pretext of democracy and human rights that they interfere in other country’s internal affairs while turning a blind eye to their own problems,” Geng told a media briefing here.

He reiterated China’s official reference to Tiananmen massacre as a “political disturbance” and sought to rule out its recurrence as the Chinese economy is on the downhill after long years of growth raising concerns.

“On that political disturbance at the end of 1980s the Chinese government has reached clear conclusion a long time ago. The tremendous progress achieved in 70 years since founding of new China shows that the development path chosen by China is completely right,” he said.

He said the government and the ruling CPC have the “people’s firm backing and the Chinese people will continue to move forward on the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics”, an ideological line enunciated by Mao Zedong’s successor Deng Xiaoping in whose time the massacre took place.

Days ahead of the sensitive anniversary, Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe made a rare mention of the protests during a regional forum in Singapore.

“That incident was a political turbulence and the central government took measures to stop the turbulence, which is a correct policy,” he said.

Wei added that because of the government’s action at that time “China has enjoyed stability and development”.

6092
By PTI Updated: Jun 04, 2019 10:02:07 pm