June 4 marked the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Massacre. It was the date when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) dictatorship used armed force to crush demonstrations calling for democracy. As a result, there were many casualties among the protesting students and other citizens.
Commenting on the anniversary, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin reiterated the official Chinese government position adopted to legitimize the bloody crackdown. He declared that a "definitive conclusion" had already been reached regarding the historical incident. He added that the democracy movement had been an antirevolutionary disturbance.
Such a stance is totally unacceptable.
What Happened at Tiananmen Square?
Units of the People's Liberation Army were brought in to quell the demonstrations. Then, from the evening of June 3 through June 4, after several weeks of escalating protests, the PLA repeatedly fired indiscriminately on students and local residents in and around the square.
It is an incontrovertible historical fact that the authorities used deadly military force to suppress a peaceful civil movement.
Although the Chinese authorities claim that only 319 deaths resulted, the general view is that such a figure is far too low. British diplomatic documents at the time estimated "more than 10,000 people" died.
Cracking Down on Hong Kong
China should accept responsibility for the massacre and apologize to the families of the victims. Why were innocent civilians mowed down? The Chinese authorities must explain to the Chinese people what actually happened during the incident.
Memorial activities in Hong Kong were permitted even after its reversion to Chinese rule under "one country, two systems." It was a tradition to hold a mass candlelight vigil every June 4 in Victoria Park. That is in the city's Causeway Bay district.
However, since the Hong Kong National Security Law took effect in 2020, memorial activities have been effectively banned. There was also a memorial museum in Hong Kong dedicated to the events of June 4, 1989. It displayed artifacts of the victims and other items. However, it, too, was forced to close.
If the Chinese authorities actually believe their statement that they are "adhering to the one country, two systems" formula, shouldn't they allow the remembrance activities in Hong Kong to continue?
Preserving the Memories Overseas
Meanwhile, the center of memorial activities has shifted from Hong Kong to overseas locations. A new museum that collects and exhibits artifacts of the massacre victims has opened to the general public in New York City.
In a statement released on June 1, Human Rights Watch listed the names of individuals who died at Tiananmen Square. The international human rights organization also reiterated the demand for a thorough investigation. It appealed to the Chinese government to accept responsibility for the deaths. Furthermore, it called on the international community to adopt a coordinated response, including sanctions against China.
For our part, we should also remember that it was the Japanese government that took the initiative in lifting sanctions against China after the Tiananmen Square incident. Japan thereby lent a helping hand to the CCP regime, which was in dire straits due to the fallout from the incident. That decision reflected a disgraceful disregard for human rights.
The Tiananmen Square atrocity is not a tragedy of the past. Seeking to bury the truth is oppression in another guise. Based on serious reflection on how it acted at that time, Japan should join with other Western nations in pressuring China to immediately desist from its ongoing oppression.
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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun