HRW: China authorities suppressing commemoration of 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre News
HRW: China authorities suppressing commemoration of 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre

The Chinese government is silencing discussion and commemoration of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, according to a statement released by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday. June 4 will mark 35 years since the Chinese military attacked civilian protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square in 1989, allegedly killing and wounding thousands. No official death toll has even been made available.

In the lead-up to the commemoration, Maya Wang, acting China Director at HRW, criticized the Chinese government for stifling public discourse. Citing calls for accountability that remain unheard, Wang said, “[t]he Chinese government is seeking to erase the memory of the Tiananmen Massacre throughout China and in Hong Kong.”

The statement highlights multiple instances of erasure over the past few months and an accelerated suppression of public debates in Hong Kong. In May, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance convicted organizers of Hong Kong’s annual Tiananmen Vigi, the first arrests under the Hong Kong Basic Law. In April, a student leader was sentenced for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” after he held up a sign calling for redress at a local police station in China. Tiananmen Mothers – an activist group whose relatives were killed or injured during the events of 1989 – continue to face constant police surveillance. According to HRW, other activists “are similarly placed under tightened police surveillance or taken away from their homes.”

HRW has called for the Chinese government to take numerous measures on the 35th anniversary. At the heart of their demands, HRW takes issue with a lack of legal accountability and public investigation that fails to do justice to the lives lost. According to HRW, the Chinese government must respect the human rights of those who challenge the official account of the Tiananmen Massacre, investigate those involved in planning or ordering the use of lethal force, and formally apologize to members of the Tiananmen Mothers. Wang also called for the international community to press China to accept accountability:

The international community should not give Bejing a pass for failing to address the Tiananmen Massacre atrocities or its continuing persecution of those keeping the memory of the massacre alive. Foreign governments should seize this opportunity of the 35th anniversary and renew their commitments to take strong, coordinated, and principled actions against China’s worsening rights record.