Australian Senator Dio Wang is facing intense criticism for essentially endorsing the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacres.
“Based on the information I have, I think the [Chinese] government did the right thing,” he said in a recent interview.
There is no formal death toll available from the government’s crackdown 26 years ago, since the Chinese government does all it can to suppress information about the incident. However, experts believe that the number of pro-democracy protesters who were killed when the Chinese military turned their guns on the civilian crowds is in the thousands.
“Obviously, when criminals and students get mixed up, you can’t really identify each one of them. So when there was force to be deployed you may get innocent casualties,” Wang continued.
The Tiananmen Square protest was one of hundreds of pro-democracy protests in China on June 4, 1989. As the Soviet Union collapsed, there were hopes that communism in China would collapse as well. However, the government’s brutal crackdown shattered the pro-democracy movement in the country.
The crackdown was a good thing, according to Wang, because “otherwise the country would have descended into hell.”
In response to the crackdown, then-U.S. President George H.W. Bush strongly condemned the use of military force, and Congress placed devastating economic and political sanctions on China.
Then-Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke famously wept at a memorial service dedicated to the murdered protesters.
“To crush the spirit and body of youth is to crush the very future of China itself,” Hawke said at that service in 1989.
The reaction to Wang’s comments in Australia has been overwhelmingly negative.
Wang is the only senator representing the Palmer United Party, which has not offered an official reaction to his comments. He was born in China, and immigrated to Australia in 2003.
Human Rights Watch Australia’s president, Elain Pearson, condemned Wang’s comments, calling them “appalling” and “an affront to families still seeking justice.”
“It is shocking to claim that violent repression of peaceful protests resulting in hundreds of deaths was the ‘right thing to do,’” Pearson also said.
Australian Labor Party leader Bill Shorten entirely rejected Wang’s view of the massacre, calling it a “tragedy.”
Amnesty International also took time to expressly attack Wang’s views, explaining to the media that the organization sees the massacres as a crime against humanity.
Senator Wang has not spoken to the press since the interview and his comments went to print.