- Tuesday is the 30th anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, when Chinese troops violently shut down a pro-democracy protest in central Beijing.
- China has more or less written the crackdown out of its history, and it routinely censors discussion of it on its internet.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday paid tribute to the victims and said China “tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests.”
- Beijing officials hit back at Pompeo’s statement, saying that critics like him “will only end up in the ash heap of history.”
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Beijing on Tuesday criticised US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, a bloody event which saw the Chinese army clear out a pro-democracy protest in the capital city by mowing down protesters.
In the early hours of June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party sent a column of tanks and troops into downtown Beijing to break up a long-running occupation in the central Tiananmen Square. Within hours, hundreds of people were killed and thousands more injured.
China has more or less written the event out of its history, and it routinely censors any mention of it from its internet. Many young Chinese people now have no idea that June 4, 1989, was a significant date, according to recent reports by the BBC and The New York Times.
Pompeo on Monday issued a scathing statement commemorating the protesters who “suffered grievously in pursuit of a better future for their country,” saluting “the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago,” and calling on Beijing to make a full public account of those who were killed or lost in the crackdown.
The Chinese Communist Party said at the time that a total of 241 civilians and security officers were killed, but other official estimates put the figure as high as 10,000. Beijing has repeatedly refused to revise its official figures or verify other ones.
Pompeo’s statement added that “over the decades that followed” the Tiananmen Square crackdown, “the United States hoped that China’s integration into the international system would lead to a more open, tolerant society.”
“Those hopes have been dashed,” he said. “China’s one-party state tolerates no dissent and abuses human rights whenever it serves its interests.”
‘The ash heap of history’
An unidentified representative for the Chinese Embassy in Washington on Tuesday slammed Pompeo’s statement, saying it was born of “prejudice and arrogance” and calling it “an affront to the Chinese people and a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations.”
“Whoever attempt to patronize and bully the Chinese people in any name, or preach a ‘clash of civilizations’ to resist the trend of times will never succeed. They will only end up in the ash heap of history,” the representative said.
The mention of a “clash of civilizations” likely refers to a controversial remark last month by Kiron Skinner, the State Department’s director of policy planning, who described competition with Beijing as a “fight with a really different civilisation and a different ideology” and called China “a great power competitor that is not Caucasian.”
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, also told reporters on Tuesday that “the deranged babbling of these people will only end up in the trash can of history,” according to The Washington Post’s Beijing bureau chief, Anna Fifield.
This is not the first time Pompeo has stood up to China over Tiananmen Square.
In a statement last year, Pompeo remembered “the tragic loss of innocent lives” and called on the Chinese government to fully account for those who were killed, detained, or lost in the crackdown.
He also cited the famous Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, saying that “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Hua Chunying, a spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, responded then by saying that Pompeo “has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything” and slamming the US’s “gratuitous criticism” of China.
Pompeo’s criticism and provocation of China have increased over the past few months amid US-China trade-war tensions and the Trump administration’s crackdown on Chinese tech.
In March, Pompeo met with four members of the majority-Muslim Uighur ethnic group based in western China that is under unprecedented attack from the Chinese Communist Party.
Members of Congress have for months called for sanctions against those involved in the crackdown on the Uighurs, but the Trump administration has not acted.
In February, Pompeo also threatened the US’s European allies with consequences if they did not distance themselves from the Chinese telcom giant Huawei, which the US views as a potential national-security threat.
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