Jianli Yang still has clear memories of that deadly June day in 1989 when the Chinese Communist government slaughtered anywhere from several hundred to several thousand student protesters in Tiananmen Square.
“I saw a lot of people being killed,” Yang told Breitbart News at a rally at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday to mark the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. “I saw tanks run over students.”
“That changed my life,” said Yang, who said he “narrowly escaped” from the protest and has since devoted his life to fighting for freedom and democracy in China.
Yang returned to China in 2002 and, after being arrested for his activism, served five years in a Chinese jail.
Yang, who runs Citizen Power Initiatives for China, said the 30th anniversary of the massacre should serve as a milestone to educate people about what happened on that tragic day.
“First of all we have to educate the American public about what happened 30 years ago,” Yang told Breitbart News. “After Tiananmen Square, we tried to advocate for the link between trade and human rights with China. But unfortunately, our warnings fell on deaf ears.”
The delinking of human rights and other issues in U.S.-China relations started in the 1990s when the Clinton administration put into place policies that allowed negotiations between the two countries to exclude human rights as a precondition.
“As a result, China’s government has been booted up economically” without any focus on human rights in U.S. policy.
“China’s government became more and more aggressive as they became stronger and stronger economically,” Yang said. “Now their military power endangers our allies in Asia and everywhere and actually penetrates in the country through money, affecting our democratic way of life.”
“We want the American people to understand this,” Yang said. “We have to do something about changing China’s human rights situation.”
“If the human rights situation continues to be dire, I think U.S. security interests will be hurt,” Yang said.
The rally featured a range of speakers from organizations advocating for freedom and democracy in China to lawmakers who vowed not to forget and to hold Xi Jinping accountable for ongoing horrific human rights violations, including holding Muslim Uighurs in concentration camp settings and arresting, torturing, and even killing religious minorities.
“He has declared war on religion and world leaders, including in this Capitol, and we need to speak out boldly and unambiguously against this attack against people of faith,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) said at the rally.
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