U.S. State Department Calls Tiananmen Square ‘a Full-On Massacre’

Tiananmen Square (AP Photo / Jeff Widener)
AP Photo / Jeff Widener

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus on Thursday refuted propaganda from the Chinese Communist government and described the crushing of democracy protests in Tiananmen Square 30 years ago as a “full-on massacre” that the free world will neither forgive nor forget.

Ortagus was delivering a press briefing when one of the reporters asked about the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square, “where peaceful demonstrators were violently suppressed on June 4, 1989.”

“They were massacred,” Ortagus interjected.

The reported noted that Communist China systematically censors all references to Tiananmen Square and human rights groups describe a ruthless crackdown on activists who attempt to violate the information embargo.

“You’re absolutely right. We’ve, of course, seen those reports. It couldn’t be any more troubling,” Ortagus said.

One of the reports she referred to was published by Amnesty International on Tuesday. The group collated reports of Chinese police detaining and threatening “dozens of activists who are seeking to mark the June 4 anniversary, as well as relatives of those killed.” Many of these arrests were justified with charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” China’s all-purpose indictment for crushing political dissent.

“We shouldn’t forget that this was a full-on massacre of peaceful protestors that occurred. We remember the tragic loss of innocent lives, and as we do every year and we will again this year, express our deep sorrow to the families who are still grieving,” she said.

Ortagus said the United States will continue working with the international community to demand “a full public accounting for those killed, detained, and missing.”

“We want those released who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families,” she said.

Ortagus said the Chinese Communist Party’s “systematic” and “horrific” abuses are “one of the more sad, tragic things that we’re seeing going on in the world today.”

The Chinese government continues to conceal the number of people killed, injured, or imprisoned by the Tiananmen crackdown and refuses to admit it was a “massacre” or an act of political “suppression.”

The New York Times on Thursday described newly-uncovered documents that showed hard-line Communists in 1989 using the Tiananmen demonstrations, which they saw as a serious threat to Communist power, as an opportunity to marginalize reform-minded Party leaders and establish the paranoid, hyper-nationalist dictatorship that endures to this day under Communist Party leader Xi Jinping.

In the estimation of historians who reviewed these documents, Tiananmen Square was one of the most important events in shaping modern China, as it quashed a growing student democracy movement that stood a real chance of knocking over the Communist dictatorship and intensified Chinese nationalism by portraying the students as subversive tools of the United States and other Western powers.

Amnesty International’s Asia research director, Roseann Rife, may be wrong in declaring that the suppression documented by her organization cannot “erase the horror of the wholesale slaughter that took place in and around Tiananmen Square,” because that suppression has proven fairly effective so far.

On the other hand, it is encouraging that Beijing still feels the need to brutally silence all discussion of Tiananmen Square thirty years on. Clearly, the dictatorship fears that if it does not thoroughly poison the soil of memory every June, something bright and dangerous may blossom.

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