Xi Jinping’s Chinese Communist Party have launched a major crackdown on religion in recent weeks in an attempt to oppress religious freedom and exercise control. The despotic regime has banned Christians from praying, singing hymns, removed crosses from buildings and arrested people for attending worship.
“The ongoing prosecution of people linked with self-immolation appears to be about stifling dissent and laying blame on others for this tragedy,” said Sophie Richardson, the group’s China director. “It’s time for China to respond to the grievances and human-rights violations that appear to be provoking this tragic form of protest.”
Chinese forces have occupied Tibet for more than 60 years. In 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet by crossing the Himalayas into Dharamsala, India, where Tibet’s government-in-exile has its headquarters. He remains Tibet’s spiritual leader, but two years ago turned over the political reigns to Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected prime minister.
This was just the latest in a series of harsh repressions. Five years ago, Tiananmen activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo was handed an eleven-year prison sentence for advocating civil rights and constitutionalism. Earlier this year, human rights activist Xu Zhiyong was sentenced to four years in prison for opposing corruption and abuse of power. The National Endowment for Democracy, with which we are both affiliated, honored Liu and Xu on May 29 in the U.S. Congress in an effort to raise awareness of their cases in advance of the Tiananmen anniversary—and through their cases, to bring awareness to the estimated 4,800 political prisoners in Chinese jails and camps.
The need to sustain and progressively intensify repression is a sign that the June 4 crackdown did not solve China’s problems; it exacerbated them. The ruling Chinese Communist Party faced a fork in the road in 1989. It could have dialogued with the students, as party leader Zhao Ziyang advocated, forming a common front against corruption. But the prime minister, Li Peng, argued that dialogue could end the Party’s monopoly on power. The top leader, Deng Xiaoping, sided with Li and the rest is history.
June 4, 2019, marks the thirtieth anniversary of Tiananmen Square crackdown, which saw a weekslong, student-led protest for democracy and liberalization end in hundreds of brutal deaths.
In the early hours of June 4, 1989, the Chinese Communist Party sent a column of tanks and armed troops into central Beijing, instructing them to "use any means" to clear out protesters who had been occupying it for the past few weeks.
By the beginning of June, the government was ready to act again. On the night of June 3–4, tanks and heavily armed troops advanced toward Tiananmen Square, opening fire on or crushing those who again tried to block their way. Once the soldiers reached the square, a number of the few thousand remaining demonstrators there chose to leave rather than face a continuation of the confrontation. By morning the area had been cleared of protesters, though sporadic shootings occurred throughout the day. The military also moved in forcibly against protesters in several other Chinese cities, including Chengdu, but in Shanghai the mayor, Zhu Rongji (later to become the premier of China), was able to negotiate a peaceful settlement. By June 5 the military had secured complete control, though during the day there was a notable, widely reported incident involving a lone protester momentarily facing down a column of tanks as it advanced on him near the square.
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