Jeff Widener/AP; Jason Lee/Reuters; Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP
- June 4, 2019, is the thirtieth anniversary of the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown, where Chinese troops violently shut down out a pro-democracy occupation in central Beijing.
- China has more or less written the crackdown out of its history, and routinely censors discussion of it from the internet and public life.
- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo paid tribute to the victims on Monday, and called out China, which he said "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 attacked 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 shooting and 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 a matter of hours, hundreds of people were killed and thousands more were injured.
China has more or less written the event out of its history, and routinely censors any mention of the incident from its internet. Many young Chinese people now have have no idea that June 4, 1989, was a significant date.
Pompeo on Monday issued a scathing statement commemorating the protesters who "suffered grievously in pursuit of a better future for their country," "salut[ing] the heroes of the Chinese people who bravely stood up thirty years ago," and called on Beijing to make a full public account of those who were killed or missing 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 their 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 spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington slammed Pompeo’s statement, which he said was bortn of "prejudice and arrogance," and called it an "affront to the Chinese people and a serious violation of international law and basic norms governing international relations."
In a Tuesday statement, the spokesperson said: "Whoever attempt[s] 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 mention of a "clash of civilizations" likely refers to a controversial remark by Kiron Skinner, the State Department’s director of policy planning, last month where she described competition with Beijing as a "fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology," and called China a "great power competitor that is not Caucasian."
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang also told reporters on Tuesday: "The deranged babbling of these people will only end up in the trash can of history," according to Washington Post Beijing bureau chief Anna Fifield.
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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 missing in the crackdown.
He also cited famous Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo’s 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, which said: "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 slammed the US’s "gratuitous criticism" of China.
Pompeo’s criticism and provocation of China has increased over the past few months as US-China tensions continue to mount over trade-war tensions and President Donald Trump’s crackdown on Chinese tech.
In March, Pompeo also met with four members of the Uighur minority, the majority-Muslim ethnic group based in western China which is under unprecedented attack from the Communist Party.
Congressmen have for months called for sanctions against those involved in the Uighur crackdown, but the Trump administration has yet to take action.
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